Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee: Melissa Yunghans '04

Growing up, Orange Lutheran alumna Melissa Yunghans ’04 tried every sport she could. From basketball to soccer to softball, if there was a team, Yunghans’ parents signed her up to play.


In third grade, at Christ Lutheran School in Brea, Yunghans had the opportunity to join the school’s track and field team. It was through that experience that she found her love for throwing.


Gifted with a unique skill set, Yunghans dominated her high school track and field career at OLu by winning three straight CIF championships in the shot put event. She remains the only Lancer in school history to ever win three individual CIF titles. In recognition of these achievements and her contributions to OLu’s track and field program, she will be honored this summer as one of 11 inductees in the Orange Lutheran Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023.

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As a thrower for both the shot put and discus events while at OLu, Yunghans’ passion for the niche sport of throwing was always rooted in being part of a team.


“It's a really strange thing to be good at, and it was something that I had a natural affinity for,” says Yunghans of throwing. “I was always interested in doing all of the team sports, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie of teams and being a part of all of that. I was good enough that it caught my attention, and I continued to grow into it.”


Beginning her sophomore year in 2002, Yunghans reigned supreme in the shot put. She won the CIF-SS individual title in the event in 2002, 2003 and 2004, and her shot put throw in spring of 2004 still holds the CIF-SS Division 4 record. She is the OLu school record holder for shot put and owns the second best mark in school history in the discus.


In 2004, Yunghans finished third in the state in shot put, and her throwing accomplishments earned her the Orange County Athletic Directors Association (OCADA) Athlete of the Year Award.

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Yunghans was also a four-year varsity basketball player for the Lancers, and she credits her time spent on the court for helping make her a better overall athlete and for giving her agility and a strong sense of body movement.


“Some of the positioning and techniques in the throwing world are really unusual, and so having that sense of self and that presence I think really came from doing other sports,” says Yunghans. “Throwing, in particular, is really important from a positioning perspective and being able to tell your body to do something it doesn't do naturally. I think it would be hard to learn that if you were only a thrower.”

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Yunghans time at OLu was not limited to just athletics. She participated in a wide range of interests, including band, art and AP courses, and the fact that she had the opportunity to pursue a variety of activities gave her a much richer high school experience.


“When you're that young and that interested in so many different things, and there are different potential paths that you might want to take, it's just a shame that you would have to choose and be specialized,” says Yunghans. “The environment [at OLu] really supports you to branch out and explore everything that you're interested in or could be good at. You have the support and the space to do that.”


Yunghans’ throw marks caught the attention of several college coaches from schools such as UC Berkeley, University of Arizona and Syracuse University.


But her dream school was Stanford University, and once Yunghans connected with the Cardinal track and field coaching staff and was accepted into the college, her decision was made, and she headed up to the Bay Area.


While at Stanford, Yunghans expanded her throwing repertoire, and the hammer throw quickly became her strongest and favorite event. She had solid seasons throughout her time with the Cardinal and was a busy student athlete as a thrower and a psychology major. She credits her time at OLu and her pursuit of varied interests as a high schooler in helping her develop key time management skills at the collegiate level.


“Having the opportunity to do everything at OLu opened so many doors,” says Yunghans. “It made me learn how to balance my time and energy and find ways to make things work when you're really busy. Trying to find that balance is hard, and I started learning that from an early age with the opportunity to be involved in so many different things.”


Outside of some limited youth coaching stints, Yunghans’ graduation from Stanford in 2008 was the end of her journey as a thrower. She currently lives in the Bay Area where she serves in an HR role as Director of Total Rewards for a cybersecurity company.


From sitting in the hallways with basketball teammates waiting for practice to start to playing card games with her throws squad, Yunghans reflects back on her time as a Lancer with great pride and attributes much of her success in her athletic and professional careers to the foundation that was established for her at OLu.


“I think back about OLu as being really formative, and I contribute a lot of my success in life and in business to being a student athlete with the trials and the lessons that I learned through those experiences,” says Yunghans. “I have always carried OLu around in my heart as being really responsible for a lot of my success throughout the years.”


To be recognized for her accomplishments as a Lancer is a humbling experience for Yunghans, as her high school years remain at the forefront of defining her current path. It is a chapter in her life that she will cherish forever.


“I'm very touched and emotional about it,” says Yunghans of her Hall of Fame selection. “OLu has a legacy for me, so to feel like I get to be a part of OLu’s legacy in this way is really special. My name is down somewhere in OLu’s heart in the way it is in mine, and that’s a huge honor.”

Topics from this blog: Athletics Alumni Stories