by Alisa Brandle
Most serious athletes, by the time they reach the prep level, have begun to narrow their focus onto one sport, in which they participate year-round with the hopes of earning a college scholarship.
Not Carly Dockendorf.
"I did women's wrestling, women's rugby, soccer, volleyball, track, and of course, gymnastics," the Husky junior says.
Not many current athletes at the UW can rattle off a list that long, much less one that includes wrestling and rugby.
"They were all fun sports and I really enjoyed them, but I didn't have the same passion for them that I have for gymnastics."
It was Dockendorf's passion for gymnastics - she placed sixth in the all-around at the 1998 Canadian National Gymnastics Championships and fourth in the all-around at the 1996 Jr. Pan American Games - that brought her from her hometown of Port Moody, British Columbia, to the University of Washington in 2001. However, it is her multi-faceted athletic ability that has propelled her into the Pac-10 elite in both gymnastics and pole vaulting, which she tried out on a whim at the conclusion of her freshman gymnastics season.
A provincial champion pole vaulter at Best Secondary School in Port Moody, Dockendorf accepted an invitation in April of 2002 to work out with the UW pole vaulters, who consistently rank among the nation's best. After just two weeks of practice, and using a borrowed pole and shoes, Dockendorf cleared 12 feet, 1 1/2 inches at the Ken Foreman Invitational, a mark that would have ranked fourth all-time at Washington had she been competing as an official UW athlete.
While two-sport athletes are not rare at the collegiate level - football/basketball star Nate Robinson and basketball/track standout Heather Reichmann are just two of many to succeed at Washington in the past few years - few have ever competed in two sports simultaneously, as Dockendorf does from January-March.
The weekend of Mar. 1, 2003, might have provided the best example of Dockendorf's incredible athletic talent. On Friday night, Feb. 28, Dockendorf helped the Husky gymnastics team extend an undefeated home season with a perfect-10 on the floor exercise, just the sixth perfect-10 in Husky history and the first in her career. Less than 12 hours later, Dockendorf soared to the fifth-best pole vault mark in UW history at the Pac-10 Indoor Invitational, before returning to gymnastics practice the following week.
This winter, Dockendorf will attempt to do something perhaps no Husky athlete has done before, compete in two sports on the same weekend - on the road. The gymnastics team is scheduled to compete in Boise against Boise State on Feb. 6, while the track team will battle the Broncos Feb. 7.
"I think it would be really cool to be able to do that," she says. "I hope it works out, schedule-wise."
Much has worked out thus far for Dockendorf, who has spent the past two seasons living up to the title of Most Promising Freshman given to her by her gymnastics teammates in 2002. Forced into UW's all-around rotation that season after an injury to Stacy Wong, Dockendorf took 10th place in the all-around at the NCAA West Regional, including a second-place on the floor exercise in which she set a UW freshman record. With increasing consistency and a strong set of skills on all events, she is set to continue a record-breaking Husky gymnastics career.
Dockendorf's success is rooted in her strategy of meeting every challenge head-on. As a freshman, she humbly listed the uneven bars as an event she wanted to improve. Barely a year later, after hours of hard work with assistant coach Frank Lee, Dockendorf scored a perfect-10 on the uneven bars at the Pac-10 Championships, becoming just the second Husky gymnast to take the title in the event, and the second ever to record a perfect performance.
True to form, it was just a few months later that Dockendorf was back on the track, taking eighth place in the pole vault at the Pac-10 Championships while qualifying for the NCAA West Regional Meet.
With two seasons left, Dockendorf is determined not just to break more Husky records, but to help lead the "GymDawgs" back to the NCAA Championships.
"Every year we always strive to make it to nationals," she says. "We just need to keep it together for a whole year. If everyone does what they are capable of doing, we should be fine."
Washington's gymnasts have not qualified as a team to the NCAA Championships since 1998, thus Dockendorf has set personal goals aside in favor of the team.
"I want to be a good team supporter by being consistent on all four events," says Dockendorf, who in addition to her '10' in the uneven bars, boasts three perfect-10s in the floor exercise, equaling former UW All-American Tiffany Simpson for the Huskies' career record.
While her perfect-10s shine in the UW record books, it may be in the pole vault where Dockendorf's athletic future lies. With just seven official collegiate competitions under her belt, the 20-year-old is tied for ninth in Canadian history with a best vault of 12 feet, 11 1/2 inches, good enough to qualify her for the Canadian Olympic Trials in Victoria, B.C., this summer.
"Pole vaulting is definitely something that I would really love to do after college," she says. "To train for the Olympics I'd have to focus more and be more serious about it, because school and gymnastics are my primary focus right now. Definitely, though, when I'm done with gymnastics, I would love to go for the Olympics in the pole vault. That would be an awesome experience."
Perfect-10s, record vaults - Dockendorf is awesome, indeed.