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Wilson College sophomore gets shot at national title

March 16, 1999

Nikki DustmanBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In all her years of practice, Nikki Dustman never thought she'd get a chance at the big time, but today she heads to Minnesota and the championship of the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association.

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The 18-year-old Wilson College sophomore has earned the right to compete in the vault trials as an individual event specialist, said Korena Angell, coach of Wilson's five-member gymnastics team.

Dustman beat her competition at the regional finals in Massachusetts last weekend and will compete against 10 gymnasts in Minnesota on Saturday, Angell said. She is the first Wilson College student to reach the national competition.

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"Nikki trained for eight years before she got to college," Angell said. "She never worked on the vaults before she came to Wilson. She's very strong, very determined. That's why she's going to the nationals."

"She's a spunky kid, very competitive and determined to learn," said Joyce Donatelli, director of physical education at the women's college in

Chambersburg.

Dustman credited Wilson's gymnastics program, small though it is, and the training and encouragement of Angell.

"She's a godsend, an excellent coach," Dustman said. "I wouldn't have gotten anywhere without her. As soon as I got to Wilson, I developed a new love for gymnastics."

Dustman grew up in West Amton, N.J., and chose Wilson because of its gymnastics program, she said. An older sister, Kelly, is a Wilson alumnus.

Angell said she hopes to recruit at least four new members for the school's gymnastics team next year. Wilson competes in the NCGA's Division III and offers no scholarship money to its team members.

"We compete against teams with 10 to 14 members," Angell said.

All three women said gymnastics is a fast-changing sport with athletes pushing the envelope further each year. An Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics 50 years ago would be considered a less-than-intermediate competitor today.

It's also a sport for the young. At 18, Dustman said she's already washed up concerning any Olympic ambitions.

"You'd have to start training heavily at 5 years old and really be advanced," she said. "At 8 years old, you'd have to be doing what they're doing in the Olympics today. The sport is changing drastically."

Every gymnast has Olympic ambitions, but it takes a combination of things - money, a supportive family, tutors for school work, coaches and at least 36 hours a week of practice - to become a serious gymnast, Dustman said. Her mother spent about $300 a month for gym and coaching time for her, she added.

Dustman's major is elementary education. She wants to teach kindergarten or first grade.

Whatever she does, she said gymnastics will always be in her life, whether she's a participant, coach or judge.

"I will always continue with it," she said. "I'll never give it up."

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