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Katie Dustin, a catcher for the softball team at Glenelg High School in Howard County, is the U.S. Army Impact Player of the Month.
Dustin, a rising senior, was nominated for the award by Glenelg head coach Ray Gerstner.
"She is a three-year starter for the team and has been a team captain the last two seasons," Gerstner wrote in his nomination. "Katie has been the starting catcher for all three seasons."
A strong all-around player, Dustin put together an impressive junior season, hitting .671 with 47 hits, including 12 doubles, two triples and six home runs. She also had 40 RBIs and 36 runs scored, while striking out once.
Dustin also was reliable behind the plate. She caught most innings and called the games without help from Glenelg's coaching staff, a rarity in high school softball.
Glenelg benefited from Dustin's efforts. The Gladiators finished 2017 with a 17-6 record and an appearance in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association 3A East title game.
"I think we did amazingly. Our record says it all," Dustin said. "Us girls on the team, we were really close and pushed each other to do better. We communicated very well. We would convene after at-bats and talk about the tendencies with the pitcher so that we could do better our next time at the plate. Also, we picked each other up whenever one of us was down -- that helped us, too."
For Dustin, one of the season's highlights was the opportunity to play with her sister, Molly, who is a rising sophomore third baseman. The two sisters enjoyed playing together, and getting the opportunity to do it one last time is one of the main things the elder Dustin is looking forward to about her final year of high school softball.
"I love playing with my sister," Dustin said. "I have two sisters, but I've only ever gotten the chance to play competitively with Molly. I'm incredibly close with both, and softball is something we all can share and talk to each other about. Getting to put on a glove and play with them is amazing."
Dustin began playing softball at the age of 10 when a friend asked her to join her rec team. Not knowing much about the sport beforehand, Dustin decided to join the team and fell in love with the game.
That initial excitement Dustin felt when she first started playing accompanies her every time she takes the field.
"With how crazy life can be away from the field, I love that I'm able play softball and be a kid," Dustin said. "I don't have to worry about homework or upcoming tests, I can just focus on my team and have a good time."
As she continued to thrive at the high school level, Dustin became a highly sought-after prospect by college programs. Though Dustin looked into numerous schools, she landed on the one she's wanted to go to ever since she was little.
"Maryland has always been my dream school," Dustin said. "I've always wanted to be a Terp. I love the campus, and I'm a Maryland girl. I love the state and I wanted to stay. In my mind, it was always going to be a great fit. I went and visited most of the schools that contacted me, but my heart stayed in Maryland. It just felt like home."
Dustin has orally committed to play softball for Maryland, and plans to officially sign with the program in the fall.
In Dustin, the Terps are getting an individual who also has thrived away from the softball field. She currently holds a 4.6 GPA and is a member of the school's Key Club, which encourages its students to help others. Through Key Club, Dustin has gotten involved with 5 Star Athletics, an organization dedicated to getting young girls playing softball.
With 5 Star Athletics, Dustin teaches younger players the basics of the game, a responsibility she takes seriously.
"Softball is getting a lot more recognition these days; it's becoming more alive," Dustin said. "The sport has given me so much, so I feel like it's my duty to give life back to it by teaching younger players not only how to play, but have fun with it, too."
Watch video of the award presentation:
The Impact Player of the Month award is given to an individual who has impacted his or her team in a positive way, both on and off the field.