Bay softball player is artist on the diamond

VSAA student, Bay softball player earns college scholarship

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Dusti Blair still gets teased a bit at her school.

“They call me a jock. A wannabe artist,” she said.

What to watch for

The Skyview Storm look to return to the final four. Skyview reached the 4A state semifinals last year and have seven of nine starters returning, featuring seven first-team all-leaguers: Kelsey Meyer, Michelle Brincefield, Addi Lies, Alysa Huntley, Madison Anthony, Allison Paladeni, and Jessica Schaub. They will be without speedster Emily Dobbin, though, out with an injured foot. Kim Anthony takes over as the new head coach.

The Camas Papermakers also have high expectations after returning seven of nine starters from last season’s district championship team. However, it is nearly impossible to predict the always competitive Class 3A Greater St. Helens League.

Ridgefield is another squad that fared well last season and has a lot of talent this season. Ridgefield won two games at the 1A state tournament, then graduated just two players.

Recent history: Skyview finished fourth in 4A state last year; Heritage was second in 4A state in 2010. Union tied for third in 3A state in 2010. Woodland won the 2A state title in 2010. Union placed third in the 2009 3A tourney while Prairie was fourth. Woodland was third in the 2009 2A tourney.

For coach-submitted preseason reports of area teams, go to The Columbian’s High School Sports blog at

www.360preps.com

While it used to hurt her feelings, she long ago accepted the fact that she has a passion for both the arts and athletics. And she could excel in both.

So it no longer bothers Blair that some of her classmates at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics remind her that athletics are not part of the curriculum.

Dusti Blair, a senior, made it part of her curriculum.

She worked her school schedule around her sports schedule, shuffling from Hudson’s Bay High School for a class in the morning, to VSAA for most of her studies, then back to Bay for softball practice.

Now, Blair is getting the last laugh.

In November, Blair was honored at VSAA, in front of the student body, for her athletic scholarship to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

Blair is a painter, a singer, and a softball player. A school official believes Blair is the first VSAA student to earn an athletic scholarship at an NCAA Division I program.

“Going to the arts school has given me the experience of a lifetime,” Blair said. “To be able to be an athlete at a regular high school has kind of given me the best of both worlds.”

Because there are no sports teams at VSAA, students who wish to participate in sports can play for the high school of their residency. Blair has been a varsity softball athlete at Hudson’s Bay since her freshman year.

She also has been a part-time student at Bay, sacrificing a lot of time with an odd commute to ensure her athletic eligibility.

Among the challenges for a VSAA student to be an athlete is the competition against the clock. A normal day at VSAA begins at 9:35 a.m. and concludes at 4:05 p.m., long after most high schools teams have started practice. With the help of her counselor at VSAA, Blair figured out a way.

“We want to support kids in finding their talents and support their journey toward their passion,” VSAA counselor Bonnie Little said.

For the last four years, Blair dropped her last two classes at VSAA but also picked up a 7:30 a.m. class at Hudson’s Bay to remain eligible under Washington Interscholastic Activities Association regulations.

There was a time, Blair said, when she thought about leaving the arts school. Her mother also gave Blair the option of giving up high school softball.

“For her, that never would have happened,” AnnaMarie Lawson said of her daughter. “I never doubted she could do it.”

That’s why that school assembly at VSAA was so special to Blair.

“It really helped people understand why I didn’t participate in the school play, or why I wasn’t there the last half of the day,” Blair said. “They saw what I was doing, and the dedication I had to the sport.”

That commitment has been there for both disciplines for years.

Drawing and painting became a part of her in elementary school. She also performed in musicals, singing at her church when she was younger.

“I knew I wanted to go to a school that incorporated all of those things,” Blair said.

With her academic future lined up, she never forgot about her sport.

She began playing at the Vancouver Girls Softball Association when she was 5 years old. By the time she was 12, she was on a traveling team.

“After that, I realized I had a calling for (softball). I was kind of a big fish in a small pond,” she said.

Eventually, Blair found herself playing for a team in Seattle, the Northwest Sidewinders. Last summer, Blair was spotted by a Weber State coach while she played in a tournament in Las Vegas. The coach e-mailed her, explaining that her skill set matched what the Wildcats were looking for and asked if she would be willing to visit the campus.

Naturally, Blair asked the coach if Weber State had an arts education program. She wants to share her love for arts with children as a teacher. From there, she went to the campus and was inspired by what she saw. A few weeks later, she was back in Ogden helping out at a softball clinic when the coaches offered her the scholarship.

“They told me I could think about it, but I already knew my answer. ‘It’s a big, ol’ yes,’ I told them, and they welcomed me into the Wildcat family,” Blair said.

With that settled, Blair could focus on her senior year at school and her senior season with her team.

“What she brings, besides her intelligence, is she is kind of the spark of the whole team,” said Bay coach Tony Christensen, who is in his fourth year with the Eagles -- all with Blair. “She’s a natural-born leader on the field. Sometimes I have to tell her to slow it down.”

In club ball, Blair prefers third base. But at Bay, she plays wherever she is asked. Last year, she had to fill in for an injured player and was the team’s catcher for much of the season.

Blair also has helped design the team’s warm-up shirts the past few years. Can’t take the artist out of the athlete.

Her athletic scholarship and her standing at her arts school prove that a dedicated person can make it work. She likes the word “passion” to describe her feelings for art and softball. Her competitive nature also helped deal with being a little different at the arts school.

“I had to stand up for myself and for my sport and for where I wanted to go for my future,” Blair said.

She wants to be an artist, an art teacher, and a softball coach.

It appears that Dusti Blair had the perfect education -- at two schools -- to prepare her for the next stage in her life.