Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Athlete on Life Support Gun Victim Has Medical Career Aspirations

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Athlete on Life Support Gun Victim Has Medical Career Aspirations

Article excerpt

Melissa Chambliss admires Olympic softball champion Dot

Richardson for her competitiveness.

The 17-year-old Jacksonville high school senior also

believes in protecting the pristine setting of her Oceanway

community from overdevelop ment. And she wants to be a doctor

to help people.

But Chambliss' aspirations might have ended Thursday when she

fired a .38-caliber bullet into her head on the First Coast High

School softball field during a dispute with her coach.

The National Honor Society student and exceptional athlete

remained at University Medical Center on life support in

critical condition last night. Police are still trying to

determine where she got the gun used in the shooting on Duval

Station Road.

Police said Chambliss was despondent over performing poorly in

a softball tryout Sunday for Santa Fe Community College in

Alachua County. They also said she blamed her high school

softball coach for some of her problems. Shortly before the

shooting occurred, Chambliss told some teammates she was

quitting the team but didn't elaborate.

Principal Hardy Fletcher said he heard about the poor tryout,

but he and Chambliss' economics teacher said they found it

surprising she would shoot herself over that.

"She had it together as far as everybody could tell, and those

types are the most at risk sometimes," said Mario Tizziani,

Chambliss' economics teacher. "They don't want anyone to see

what's really inside."

Terri Knecht, the Sante Fe softball coach, said Chambliss

didn't hit well in the tryout and the school didn't intend to

offer her a scholarship. Knecht said she mentioned nothing to

Chambliss about the scholarship, and Chambliss didn't appear

distraught after the tryout.

"It can't be totally connected to the tryout, but at the same

time I know she wanted her future to be softball," Knecht said.

"She just didn't hit well and there was room for improvement. We

were looking for quality athletes. She's a good kid, but my

program is not just made up of good kids. They have to hit and

run and throw."

Knecht said Chambliss had sought opportunities to play at other

colleges.

The Chambliss family declined to comment.

Coping with the tragedy has not been easy for anyone close to

Chambliss, who friends described as vivacious, funny and

compassionate.

"I hoped I would wake up this morning and all of this would be

a bad dream, that none of it really happened," said Melissa

Benton, 18, a senior classmate and friend. "But I woke up this

morning and all of it was still here."

Police said they didn't talk to Chambliss' family yesterday out

of respect for their grief, not unusual in such cases.

Investigators said the . …

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