by Norm Newell
Photography by Janssen Photography
Many of you have been to the big city, sat in the major league stadium, and watched nationally known sports figures play their one sport for the big bucks. A fun experience for sure, but I’m convinced that just as many of you enjoy your small town sports and the boys and girls that play multiple sports simply because they love the activity, the challenge, the action, the exhilaration, and the camaraderie of their teammates.
I think of these young men and women as true American sports people. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting such a person, Doranna Blascyk from West Central Area High School.
Living in the small central Minnesota town of Kensington, Doranna is a true American sports girl, the kind we all feel most comfortable watching and cheering for. It took only a few minutes of talking with Doranna to discover just how much she loves activity, enjoys a challenge, and basks in the exhilaration of sports and the joy of being around her friends and teammates striving to do their best.
Oh, and by the way, she just happens to be very good at those sports too.
Doranna is a three-sport athlete, participating in organized activities year-round. It’s volleyball in the fall season, basketball in the winter, and softball in the spring. In summer, she coaches softball for the recreation program and plays in leagues for softball, volleyball and basketball. Four days a week she goes to the weight and agility program at the school from 6:45 until 8:15 am…you know, just to keep busy. She also works at the Kensington gas station a few days a week during the school year and many weekdays in the summer. Leaves us all wondering, where does she find the time to play with her two dogs, Mia and Shorty?
Doranna lives to be active and loves her sports…all of them. When asked which sport she liked the best, she said, “I like them all and really couldn’t pick just one.” Spoken like a true American sports girl.
Doranna doesn’t just play sports, she excels at them. She’s a three year letter-winner in volleyball and basketball. She was a captain and defensive MVP her senior year in volleyball and was selected all-conference in the libero position. In basketball, she’s been recognized with all-conference honors and received the Miss Hustle Award from her team this year.
Doranna is best known as one of the area’s leading pitchers for the West Central Knights softball team. Perhaps her skills came naturally. Her mother, Michelle, was also a softball pitcher in her high school years and her dad, Jason, was a football player.
She initially became interested in softball because while big brother Colton watched ESPN’s SportsCenter, she sat next to him and noted that the pitchers on the ladies softball teams were always in action, and the focus of the team. That peaked her interest and she wanted to try it. She started in the summer recreation program in kindergarten and picked up pitching when it switched over from “toss” where the coaches pitch, to “fastpitch” where the players pitch. Her mother gave her some early tips on the pitching motion and Doranna picked it up right away. She would play as long as possible each day and return home to her Mom’s homemade rhubarb cake, her favorite.
Small town sports, the summer recreation program, SportsCenter, and apple pie (or rhubarb cake). What could be more American than that?
Continuing to improve every year, by the 8th grade she pitched her first high school varsity game. In 9th grade she became the full-time starter on the mound and has pitched almost every varsity softball game for the Knights since. After going 11-5 last year, she will again be the primary pitcher for the Knights this spring. Going into her senior season, she holds the Knights title for most pitching wins all-time.
She credits her former Knights coaches, Beth Hanson Hill and Brian Poyzer, along with summer recreation coach Adrianne Stark with improving her pitching motion and skill. Doranna throws a riser fastball, a drop ball, and a “circle” change-up. The “circle change” name comes from circling the thumb and small finger around the side of the ball, using the same motion as a fastball, the ball comes out slower and puts the batter off their timing. The motion requires full extension of the legs and arms, a strong push off towards home plate with the legs and a strong whip of the arm and snap of the wrist. The proper grip and especially the right “release point”, as Doranna calls it, are integral to the pitch. She doesn’t know how fast she throws a pitch, but she doesn’t care either, as long as she can keep the hitters guessing and off their timing.
West Central Area’s softball coach, Adrianne Stark, coached Doranna over several years of summer recreation softball. Coach Stark was thrilled to talk about her star pitcher, for whom she has high praise.
“Doranna is an excellent pitcher. She doesn’t have a specific strike-out pitch, instead she reads the batters so well and has the greatest sense for where to pitch the ball and for changing speeds to keep batters off balance. She is always focused and always thinking on the mound.”
Coach Stark continues, “The greatest thing about Doranna however, is that she’s such a team player. She’s always the first one standing and cheering for her teammates and congratulating them on their successes. She helps coach summer youth softball and will go out of her way and spend extra time with a young girl who requests her help in learning to pitch.”
Another true American sports tradition, passing on your knowledge and skills to the youth who look up to you and love the sport as much as you do.
Doranna is also an excellent hitter, batting .400 last year, and playing shortstop in the few games she didn’t pitch. Her teammates were asked to describe Doranna in one word, and the words used were “athletic” and “fierce”… as in competitive. Coach Stark echoes those thoughts, saying Doranna is very focused and competitive in everything she does, from the athletic fields to her school classroom. “She goes all out in whatever she does,” states Coach Stark, who also teaches at West Central High School. “You see it in the classroom and on the field. She’s very controlled and thoughtful about what she does. There’s another side of her too, she’s a friend with everyone and will always have a smile on her face. She enjoys life.”
Her former coach Bryan Poyzer noted the same attributes, but added, “The one time she doesn’t smile is on the pitcher’s mound…she is so focused there, it’s one of the reasons for her success.”
Doranna has lettered in softball three years, was Honorable Mention All-Conference her sophomore year and All-Conference her junior year. She was also was named to the Section All-Tournament Team her junior year.
She will continue sports after high school; they are so ingrained in her life. She’s signed to play volleyball at M-State in Fergus Falls but is unsure whether she will play softball. There’s a good chance when spring comes she’ll miss the action and feel the itch to pitch for the Spartans. After M-State, Doranna plans to finish at a four-year college and get a degree in Physical Therapy.
A small town girl who plays sports year-round from her younger years through high school; one who attends a local small college and plays sports there too; who pursues a career in physical therapy where the goal is to help others keep active, fit and able to play sports.
A true American sports girl indeed.