- Mindi Rice
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For Kalpana Beach, there was no reason to draw out the inevitable, once she saw and heard exactly what she wanted for a college experience.
After an unofficial visit to Notre Dame ended Sunday, Beach, the No. 45 player in the ESPN HoopGurlz Super 60 for 2011, returned home to Westlake, Ohio, and made her decision Thursday. She gave the Irish her verbal commitment, the program's second among the country's junior class.
"I just knew there wasn't going to be any other place I'd want," Beach said Thursday. "The main reason is that they're known for being such a good academic school. I want to get a degree that will mean something."
But the academics, the Big East program's success, and the 3 1/2-hour drive for her family weren't the only perks for the 5-foot-11 guard. Beach said Muffet McGraw and her staff also said they would allow her to continue competing in track events. Beach, who runs the 200- and 400-meter races, finished second at state in the high jump as a sophomore.
"She had a great time and the whole thing just had a great aura," said Carlos Shea-Ron, Beach's SMAC club coach. "Knowing everything she wanted is wrapped up in a quality school like Notre Dame ... she's super happy."
The Westlake High School junior joins Whitney Holloway, a 5-4 point guard from Plainfield, Ill., who gave Notre Dame her commitment in May, as McGraw's two early 2011 commitments.
Beach relied on her parents' help from the beginning with the college decision. Her father, Sanjay Beach, has first-hand experience with the process after playing football at Colorado State before spending five years in the NFL.
"My parents helped me out through the entire process and took the stress away," Beach said. "I didn't really have a dream school; I just knew Notre Dame was where I want to be."
Beach took unofficial visits to Penn State, Michigan State, Duke and Ohio State before her unofficial visit to Notre Dame, and she was also considering visits to Louisville and Maryland, among others.
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Mindi Rice is a National High School / ESPN HoopGurlz staff writer. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.