Jen Lada is a famous sports reporter and host known for her work on ESPN shows like First Take, Baseball Tonight, and College Gameday. Her journey to the sports channel dubbed the worldwide leader in sports is an example of what a person can achieve through dedication and talent.
At ESPN, an outlet known for its array of star journalists and performers, Jen Lada has managed to stand out with awards and recognition nationally. Her story is one that is worth exploring, particularly because it began with an internship and her working as a waitress.
Jen Lada’s Career Began at Watts Communications
When Jen Lada graduated from college in 2002, it took her a minute to find her footing in the broadcasting industry. Her first professional role was an internship at Watts Communication. It was a gig that paid little so to keep the lights on, she worked a side gig as a waitress.
Eventually, Jen found work as a sports reporter and anchor for WITI, a local Fox affiliate in Milwaukee. She reported on all Milwaukee-based sports teams such as the Admirals, Wave, Bucks, and college sports for Marquette University.
Despite the job being her first significant role, Jen impressed her bosses, setting the tone for the professionalism that would define her career. One of her reports earned her a Best Feature 1st Place award by the Milwaukee Press Club. The story was about a Milwaukee woman who ran across the United States to raise awareness for Multiple Sclerosis. She also received the Best Sportscast 1st Pace honor during her time with the station.
After a couple of years at WITI, Jen Lada joined WREX-TV in Rockford, Illinois, where she served in a similar role. She was with the station from 2006 to 2013 when she joined Comcast SportsNet Chicago. For SportsNet, Jen covered the Chicago Bears and the Chicago White Sox.
Asides from being a reporter, Jen also anchored SportsNet Central and was the host of High School Lights, White Sox’s post-game, and pregame shows. Jen also displayed her skill at game hosting with the trivia show, Beer Money. Eventually, she had proven skilled enough for the big time, and she went national in July 2015 when she was hired by ESPN.
Versatility and Excellence Helped Jen Lada Stand Out at ESPN
Some people make a name for themselves by being ridiculously good at one thing. Others do it by being good at different things. Jen Lada at ESPN belonged to the latter, and it is what has helped her become a star of the media outlet. In terms of titles, she has worked as a host, reporter, and anchor.
Jen worked on shows with varying responsibilities and styles across radio and television. She has appeared on Baseball Tonight, First Take, Outside the Lines, SC Featured, and SportsCenter. She is also a frequent contributor to ESPN’s digital platforms and was a part of its Department of Highlights.
Jen Lada’s ability to find great sports stories and deliver them in a heart-gripping manner made her one of the network’s standout stars. In turn, the network has not hesitated to deploy her knowledge and skill to shows and programs like Sunday NFL Countdown and the coverage of the Special Olympics World Games in Austria and Dubai/Abu Dhabi in 2017 and 2019.
Primarily, however, Jen Lada appears on College GameDay Built by The Home Depot and College Football Live. She works as a feature reporter for the former and a host for the latter. In her role as a feature reporter for the show and others, Jen’s stories have received critical applauds.
Her story, UP Syndrome, which was about Nick Saban and Tuscaloosa native Walt Gary, earned her a Sports Emmy nomination. Another, a piece for College Gameday titled Heart of a Tiger about the connection between Auburn and LSU families through organ donation, received a College Sports Media award for Outstanding Sports Feature. Other pieces like Texas Strong and Hilinski’s Hope received a College Sports Media award and a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Sports Documentary, respectively.
Jen Lada is also the co-host of the podcast, Athletes Doing Good. In August 2020, she returned to Milwaukee to join ESPN Milwaukee radio where she will be co-hosting a morning weekday show alongside Gabe Neitzel and Mark Chmura.
All of these have made Jen a prominent fixture of the ESPN network. In turn, in recognition of her qualities and impact on the media outlet, ESPN extended her contract by signing her to a multiyear deal in September 2020. The deal’s nitty-gritty remains undisclosed, but it is presumed to be one that reflects her value to the network.
Jen was a Star Athlete Before She Became an Award-Winning Sports Journalist
Jen Lada was born on January 14, 1981, in Spring Grove, Chicago, to Connie and Bill Lada. Her early life was greatly influenced by her sporty father who was an athletic director and her mum who is a huge baseball fan. She received her high school education at Marian Catholics High School in Chicago, Illinois.
As a high school student, Jen excelled in track events and was a part of her school’s track and cross country team. Academically, she was also a brilliant student who excelled in speech and composition class. Her athletic skills were what, however, earned her a partial sports scholarship to attend Marquette University to study Broadcast Electronics, Television Broadcasting, and Sociology.
During her college years, Jen worked for a local newspaper and was part of a sorority. Eventually, she graduated in 2002, and as we have seen, she has gone on to achieve great exploits. In recognition of Jen’s achievements, her high school inducted her into its Hall of Fame and has given her an Alumni Excellence Award in 2012 and 2015, respectively.
Jen Lada’s Husband Dario Melendez Used to Work for ESPN
The beautiful sports journalist is a married woman. She is the wife of Dario Melendez, a sports journalist, and reporter for a Fox News affiliated station in Milwaukee. Dario used to work for ESPN and was a former SportsCenter anchor. He is a graduate of Sacred Heart University where he bagged a bachelor’s degree in media studies. Over the course of his career, he has worked for New York 1 News and WISN-TV, before making his way to ESPN and now, Fox Sports Wisconsin where he covers the Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks.
Jen Lada and her husband met in active service representing their respective stations at a Green Bay Packers game in Lambeau Field. After dating for a while, the pair were married on October 2, 2017. By February 2018, they welcomed their first child, Layla, and have since given birth to another, Keira.
Jen Lada’s marriage to Dario was, however, not her first. She was previously married to Sean Reti, her college sweetheart turned soccer coach whom she married in 2006. Three years after, in 2009, they welcomed their bundle of joy, Chase Reti. However, their happiness was short-lived as a family, as the couple parted ways not long after.