Docksiders gymnasts land biggest wins 4 girls awarded scholarships to Division I colleges

April 30, 1993|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Contributing Writer

Docksiders coach Bob Oullette can't refrain from using the terms dedication, discipline or focus when describing his four gymnasts who recently were awarded full athletic scholarships to some of the nation's premier Division I colleges.

"They all have diverse personalities, and they all have specific qualities, but they all share the same discipline and work ethic which has helped make them successful," Oullette said of Alanna Bailey, Leigh Cappello, Kelly Duffy and Megan Vernon, the latest in a long line of Docksiders who have received full scholarships to major universities. "They're all unique individuals."

Bailey, who has been with the Docksiders -- the competitive arm of Maryland Gymnastics in Millersville -- for 11 years, is headed for the University of Michigan, where she plans to study biology in preparation for medical school.

Bailey has been showered with accolades of late. Most recently, however, the Bowie resident and senior at Suitland High in Prince George's County received the United States Gymnastics Federation's Outstanding Senior Gymnast Award at the state meet for her achievements both in the sport and in the classroom.

"I love gymnastics, but academics has always come first for me," said Bailey, a National Honor Society member who carries a weighted 4.3 grade-point average. "I know that I'll only be doing gymnastics the next four years, but then I have the rest of my life to worry about."

Oullette said: "Alanna's hard work and perseverance has finally paid off. There are some athletes with natural ability and there are others who have to really work for it, and that's what Alanna has done."

It's always been Cappello's dream to attend Penn State University, but when scholarships appeared scarce, she was indirectly told by the Nittany Lion coaches, "Don't call us, we'll call you."

That call eventually came from Penn State coach Steve Shephard, who informed Cappello that he had a scholarship for her. Cappello said she couldn't believe it.

"I've always wanted to go to Penn State," said Cappello, who qualified for Level 10 nationals last season. "A former teammate of mine on Docksiders, Renee List, and my sister's best friend's cousin

both go there and they love it."

Cappello, who spent last weekend with teammates at the regionals in Reading, Pa., is coming off an impressive state meet where she emerged as champion on the balance beam and finished second in the all-around among the 39 entries.

"Leigh is extremely focused on what she wants," Oullette said. "She has more natural ability than most, but she's also a very strong-willed individual."

Duffy, a Gambrills resident and a senior at Severn School, needed only one visit to the campus of Louisiana State University to be sold on southern hospitality. After a visit to the LSU earlier this year, she was offered a scholarship by coach D. D. Pollock.

Duffy started in gymnastics at a young age at Royal T's in Crofton and didn't join the Docksiders until three years ago, which was the same year Oullette started as an assistant under his predecessor Mark Weber.

"I was getting a little bored with the sport, and I needed a change,"

Duffy said. "I liked it there [at Royal T's], but I just felt as though I needed more direction and focus."

Oullette agreed, adding: "She had the talent. She just needed it drawn out of her, and Coach Weber did that. Mark put her in the direction she needed to go, and she just kept moving in the right direction."

At least for awhile.

In 1991, Duffy finished fourth all-around in regionals and was a member of the Region 7 team at Eastern Nationals. In December of that year, however, she broke the two major bones in her leg -- the femur and fibula -- while dismounting in her bar routine. After several long weeks of inactivity, she gradually worked back into competitive form, amazingly in time enough to restore the faith and interest of college recruiters.

Duffy attributes her swift recovery to the support of her coaches and teammates, but said she encountered more than her share of doubters.

"A lot of people said, 'You can never come back from an injury like that,' but I never believed

them, and I knew that I would be back, I just didn't know how long it would take," she said. "As it turned out, it ended up being pretty easy for me. Now, everything is perfect."

Things couldn't be going much better for Vernon. After sending numerous letters and videotapes to colleges all over the country, the Severna Park High senior has decided to accept a gymnastics scholarship to Iowa State University.

"It was a difficult decision because it's so far away, but I think it was the right one because I visited there and all the gymnasts seem so supportive," Vernon said. "People on the team would call me just to ask how I was doing and they genuinely seemed to care. I'm going to miss my family and friends, but I'm excited."

Oullette, speaking also for his assistants, John Barrows and Linda Johnson, said: "It's going to be tough saying goodbye to this group. But, there's a whole new crop waiting to move up and take their place. For us coaches, it's a whole new challenge."

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