By Michelle Goodman
Full Court Press: Dave Dandel
Come noon, you’ll usually find Dave Dandel on the 8th Floor of the WAC. Given the choice to spend his lunch hour in a food court or on the basketball court, he’ll choose hoops every time.
The 40-year-old Magnolia resident didn’t grow up playing basketball. As a teenager in Ohio, he figure skated competitively, training with 1960 Olympic gold medalist Carol Heiss Jenkins. As an undergrad at Davidson College, he played Division 1 tennis, competed in several professional tournaments, and went on to teach tennis at a professional level to put himself through graduate school. He still plays with friends, and, with his dad, competes in the USTA National Senior Father Son Championship. (In 2004, the duo were runners-up.)
It wasn’t until moving to Seattle in 1998 that Dave discovered basketball. One pickup game at a neighborhood community center and he was hooked. “It’s a great workout, and it’s competitive,” says Dave, who’s now senior vice president of downtown investment firm Evergreen Pacific Partners. “I find it a lot more fun than going on a machine and pushing weights up and down or running.”
So much so that he plays in the WAC men’s league, alongside guys who played competitively in their college days.
Despite his indirect pedigree, Dave holds his own. “He knows the game, understands where to be on the court,” says WAC Athletic Programs Manager Darin Barr. “He gets up and down the floor and plays inside, plays outside. He’s a good defensive guy.”
Always looking to polish his on-court skills, Dave recently picked up some footwork and ball-handling tips—“fundamentals that didn’t come naturally to me”—in clinics given by WAC basketball instructor Donald Watts.
For Dave, part of the fun has been seeing his stats improve. His first year in the league nearly a decade ago, he averaged one point and three rebounds per game. This year, he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.
“As opposed to now when I play tennis, I’m worse every time,” he kids.
Dave credits the WAC for fostering an athletically challenging yet friendly, supportive community where he could cultivate a third sport.
Breaking Away: Naomi Mason
After racing in the Danskin Triathlon for the third time in 2009, lifelong runner and yoga enthusiast Naomi Mason had an epiphany.
“I was in the top 10 percent of my age group,” the 50-year-old said. “I thought, ‘If I can do this without too much training, what could I accomplish if I really trained?’”
As it turns out, a heck of a lot.
This year, the Mercer Island resident placed first among the 163 in her age group and 32nd overall in the Danskin race. She also took first in her age group in the Five Mile Lake Triathlon and Olympic distance Seafair Triathlon.
“I got a little bit more competitive,” says Naomi, who’s been a WAC member since 2007.
But it wasn’t just a mental shift that made the difference. Naomi, a self-employed interior designer, stepped up her training this past year with the WAC’s 12-week triathlon class as well as private swim lessons from WAC Aquatics Supervisor Jennifer Mesler.
A competitive swimmer in junior high school, Naomi had grown to hate the practice. She wouldn’t even get in the pool to prep for a triathlon until the week before. But as Naomi soon discovered, swim training has come a long way since the monotonous laps of her school days.
“The workouts are a lot more interesting,” Naomi says. “I really like it now.”
What Jennifer admires most about Naomi’s journey from casual triathlete to serious competitor is her persistence and can-do attitude.
“She wanted to improve her swim time in her races, and she’s definitely accomplished that,” Jennifer says.
But Naomi’s new and improved training program isn’t just about getting in the pool three times a week. To prepare for summer race season, she also cycles and runs twice a week, lifts weights four times a week and does yoga three times a week. This past winter, she did all this on top of skiing every Tuesday and teaching skiing on weekends.
Besides training harder, Naomi has invested in better race equipment. Until 2010, she didn’t have a road bike, only a mountain bike.
“I would pass other people going uphill,” she says of the cycling segments in her earlier triathlons. “But they’d pass me going downhill. It was like I was standing still.”
With 10 triathlons under her belt, Naomi feels she’s finally gotten past the learning curve.
“Now I’m able to focus on my performance instead of figuring out what am I supposed to do next,” she says. “Before, I just plodded along. I was just doing it for finishing instead of trying to see how well I could do.”
As a result, she’s come to appreciate—even enjoy—the technicality of the sport. “It’s not just about the speed,” she explains.
“It’s about the skill and the equipment. There’s a lot more to it than how fast you can go.”
She’s Got Game: Krystal Robinson
It was only a matter of time before college basketball player Krystal Robinson got back in the game. Since graduating from Western Washington University, the 26-year-old was itching to play competitively again.
So when former WWU teammate Courtney Clapp suggested Krystal join her on the WAC women’s basketball team, she leapt at the chance.
Most of the team’s 20- and 30-something members played competitively in college. To say Krystal was thrilled to join their ranks would be an understatement.
“It’s fun to play with people who are good.”
Since joining this recreational dream team in April, Krystal’s played against other women’s teams throughout Seattle and traveled to Vegas for this year’s women’s pro-am tournament.
Each Tuesday, she hightails it from her job as an assistant store manager at a downtown Starbucks to whichever city league game the team has scheduled. Before college competitions, she’d be nervous to the point of barely being able to eat. But with league games, the pressure’s off—sucking down a pre-game protein smoothie no sweat.
“Our Tuesday games are not as serious,” Krystal says. “We don’t have anybody watching us. They’re more like competitive pickup games.”
Before each game, Krystal makes time for several minutes of hip, quad and hamstring stretches.
“I’ve torn my ACL three times, one leg twice and one leg once,” Krystal says of her college injuries. “If I haven’t done my stretches, my knees will be sore during the game.”
On Sundays, the Kent resident joins her teammates at the WAC for “open gym”—a scrimmage that’s more play than practice. “The majority of us played against each other in high school, but we haven’t played together as a team before,” Krystal explains.
Despite being one of the group’s newest additions, the 6’1’’ post player fits right in. “Krystal is a great leader and communicator,” Courtney says of her college buddy. “She’s always talking on the floor. It makes such a difference in terms of defense.”
On off-league nights, Krystal usually hits the WAC women’s conditioning room, where she makes a point to vary her routine, incorporating everything from weight training to the treadmill, elliptical and other machines. “I try to mix it up so I don’t get bored,” she says.
But it doesn’t sound like Krystal will tire of moving her muscles any time soon. “At Starbucks, there are sweets and goodies all over the place. I can’t just eat those and not exercise and feel good about myself,” she says. “And playing in the game, it’s nice to not feel too out of shape.”