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She Throws Weight Around : Track and field: UCLA junior Dawn Dumble is among the nation's best in the shotput and discus.


WESTWOOD — UCLA track Coach Art Venegas first noticed Dawn Dumble compete in the shotput when she was a freshman at Bakersfield High.

Although she was smaller than her competitors, Venegas impressed Dumble with her strength.

"I was shocked when I found out that she was only in the ninth grade because I saw how she dominated her competition so handily," Venegas said. "After that, I decided to keep track of her prep career with plans to recruit her at UCLA."

Seven years later, Venegas is glad that he did.

After a celebrated high school career, Dumble joined Venegas at UCLA and has become the nation's top collegiate thrower.

Two weeks ago, Dumble won the NCAA outdoor title with a put of 56-feet-11 1/2 and finished second in the discus with a mark of 183-4. This weekend at Eugene, Ore., Dumble, a junior, is one of the favorites to qualify for the U.S. National team in both events.

"I got interested in track in the sixth grade and only because my basketball coach asked me to try it," said Dumble, a 5-8, 180-pound junior at UCLA. "But I never thought that I'd take my career in the shotput and discus this far."

When Dumble began her track and field career, she did not compete in the shot or discus. That's because her first calling was as a triple jumper and a sprinter on her junior high school 400-meter relay team.

Her success on the track was marginal and her triple jump marks were not impressive. But when she started competing in the weight events, the results were immediate.

Under the guidance of her father, she became unbeatable in age-group competition.

"I didn't have a coach when I first started out," Dumble said. "So my Dad got some books and started reading up on how to throw. He coached me my first two years."

In high school, Dumble won three state titles and established a national prep mark in the discus with a toss of 157-7.

When it came time for Dumble to decide which college to attend, it did not take long to pick UCLA.

"I always wanted to stay close to home and I always liked UCLA," Dumble said. "It was an easy decision."

As a freshman, Dumble put the shot 56-7 to finish fourth in the NCAA finals. She was fifth in the discus with a best of 182.

"We've had so many great ones at UCLA, that we just expect great ones to come here," Venegas said. "And Dawn is a special one."

Dumble struggled because of knee injuries as a sophomore and failed to move up in the NCAA finals.

This year, Dumble came out with vengeance. She was determined to win her first NCAA outdoor title.

Dumble won the shot and discus titles at the Pacific 10 Conference meet for the third consecutive year and set a UCLA school-record 56-11 1/2 in the shot.

Entering this year's NCAA outdoor championships, Dumble was regarded as the favorite.

"I wanted to win both events because that was my goal," said Dumble, 20. "But at the same time, I'm very happy because that is the best that I've competed in a big meet."

Dumble may only be scratching the surface of her potential.

"It usually takes weight-event athletes longer to peak than for other track athletes," Venegas said. "And Dawn is just starting to upset the big girls now. She's not ready to start dominating them yet, but she's getting there."

Dumble wants only to finish in the top three this weekend in both events. That would qualify her for the World Championships in Germany this summer.

"I would like to take track as far as I can for as long as I can," Dumble said. "My dream is to win a medal in the Olympics, but that is a long way off. If I did, that would be wonderful."

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