Walter Ford

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February 7, 2014
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The siblings O'Brien: Brother, sister take separate paths in search of athletic prosperity

On the path of life there are many directions one can take that result in success, but to find that success one must first start walking — and in which direction is up to the traveler.

This is the story of two young athletes, born to the same parents, who chose different paths on their pursuit of sports glory. This is the tale of the siblings O’Brien.

Melanie O’Brien, the oldest of the two, charted a course north, staking her claim as a Lady Miner and searching for athletic prosperity at Nevada Union.

David O’Brien, 15, chose to head south, joining Bear River to do battle as a member of the Bruins.

Melanie’s current adventure, high school, is almost at an end, concluding a four-year journey where she became of member of the Lady Miners elite. She will conclude her prep career as a three-sport star who shined as a member of the volleyball, basketball and track teams.

“Growing up, you always heard about Nevada Union,” Melanie said. “They always had the best basketball and volleyball players, and I always wanted to be that person. I wanted to be there. I couldn’t wait for varsity sports. Being able to go to Nevada Union and be a Miner and play sports made me feel special. The fact that we won the SFL (Sierra Foothill League) last season and my name is going to be on a banner in Ali forever, that’s something I always wanted.”

In her time with the Lady Miners, Melanie has excelled on the track in the sprint and hurdle events, helped the girls basketball team win a league championship in 2013 and on the verge of another this season, and helped the girls volleyball team penetrate the postseason for the first time since 2010. With all her successes, she still has goals left to be accomplished.

“I definitely want to get to playoffs,” she said about the basketball season. “But, not just get there, I want to go far. I definitely think we have a good chance to get past the first couple of rounds. We have the girls to do it. It was hard only going one round deep. This year I want to go really far and make it count.”

As a member of the basketball team this season, Melanie is averaging 8.2 points per game and leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game.

Part of the reason Melanie chose the path leading to Nevada Union was the opportunity to play with girls she grew up playing AAU basketball with — girls like Erin Selleck, Emma Peterson and Sydney Porter, who share her goal of going deep into the playoffs.

Melanie’s path has not only brought her great success but also has inspired others, and that’s something she holds dear.

“Just knowing that when I coach the little girls basketball camp, that they are the same little girls as I was, just looking up to the varsity players and wanting to be just like them, is a really great feeling,” she said. “I have little sixth-graders coming up to me after games and saying ‘good job.’ It’s really nice to know I can be someone they look up to.”

As for what makes the slender 5-foot, 11-inch athlete so good:

“I just have such a drive for everything I do,” Melanie said. “Growing up, I’ve always been the skinny girl. People aren’t so sure I can do as much as I can. Going into high school, I wanted to prove everybody wrong and show that I was competitive and could get the job done. Whatever obstacle was set in front of me, I wanted to show I could do it. Over the years I’ve grown such a passion for the sports I do. I’m so competitive, I always want to win.”

Competitiveness is a trait she shares with her brother.

“I’ve always had a competitive side to me,” David said. “I just grew up with a competitive side, not just in sports, but for everything. I love basketball and football because I get to show my competitiveness.”

David followed in Melanie’s footsteps in that he, too, formed a bond with his youth team and wanted to see his prep career play out alongside them.

The 6-foot, soft-spoken sophomore has already made an impact at Bear River, breaking into the starting lineup on the varsity basketball team, running the point no less, and in the fall he helped the junior varsity football team to a 9-1 record as a standout cornerback and quarterback.

As a member of the Bruins, David has assumed the role of the underdog, something he relishes.

“It feels good to be the underdog,” he said, “to be able to take down all the schools that are supposed to kill us, like Placer, Center and Lincoln. They are all way bigger than us.”

As a sophomore point guard on the basketball team, David tallied two all-tourney selections earlier in the season and is the team’s third leading scorer, with 7.9 points per game.

All the experience accrued this year will lend itself to success next season, said David.

Next season David will be joined by the boys he grew up playing with in junior high. David, along with Ben O’Lena, Dave Mastrella, Kyle Uclaray, and Conner Hollister, led Magnolia to back-to-back regular season league titles in seventh and eighth grade.

“I think we will have a special group next year for sure, and the year after,” he said.

David’s father, Brian, carries great respect for Bear River boys basketball head coach Duwaine Ganskie, and he looks forward to watching David’s game mature over the next couple of years.

“I really respect coach Ganskie,” he said. “He did a good job bringing him along, and I think he has a lot to offer David over the next couple of years.”

David, much like his sister, wants to hang a banner with his name on it.

“One of my goals is to win a PVL (Pioneer Valley League) championship, or at least compete for one, which I think we can,” he said.

Today the siblings are close friends, but like most brothers and sisters, it took time to reach that point.

“We had our ups and downs,” Melanie said. “We went through a stage where we really didn’t like each other very much, but over the years we have both grown a passion for sports, we both love to play sports, and we just gradually grew closer as the years passed. Now, I consider him one of my best friends.”

While Melanie remembers the ups and downs, Brian, watching from a father’s eyes, remembers it slightly different.

“David absolutely idolized his sister,” he said. “He worshiped the ground she walked on. He wanted to be with her every minute, and I think Melanie wanted to do her own thing, be an individual, but over time they formed a tremendous bond.”

This was a bond that was spurred along by basketball games played out on the O’Briens’ home basketball court.

“When David was younger, (Melanie) used to pound on him,” Brian said. “Just push, push, push, and I would say it was probably around seventh grade, when David started growing and getting stronger, that he started pushing back.”

For Brian and his wife, Rachel, the decision to let their children choose their own athletic and educational paths was simply a matter of trust.

“I remember Rachel and I looking at each other and my position, and she agreed with me, (Melanie) is taking care of business, she’s successful, she’s getting older and she should have the ability to choose and I should support that,” he said. “Then when David’s time came, I thought how could I cheat him just because (Melanie) was first. It would have been easier for me, but I gave David the same level of respect I gave Melanie, who made the decision for all the right reasons, and David was making it for all the right reasons. So Rachel and I said, ‘we will have to make this work,’ and I think we have.”

What does the path yet hold for the O’Brien’s?

Melanie has her eyes on Chico State and becoming a member of the Wildcat track team. As for David, he continues on his High School adventure.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

“We went through a stage where we really didn’t like each other very much, but over the years we have both grown a passion for sports, we both love to play sports, and we just gradually grew closer as the years passed. Now, I consider him one of my best friends.”
—Melanie O’Brien

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The Union Updated Feb 7, 2014 03:13PM Published Feb 11, 2014 01:55PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.