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Buckeye Union grad has Olympic dreams

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Buckeye Union High School graduate Dustie Durham played in Canada as part of the 2017 NJCAA Softball National Team. (Photo by Jen Barnes Photography)
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
 
Dustie Durham has softball in her blood.
 
The 2015 Buckeye Union High School graduate’s mother and grandparents love the sport, so it was only natural that she followed in their footsteps. 
 
“My mom, Debbie Barnes, played at Yavapai College,” said Durham, who attended the same school before graduating from Phoenix College. “My grandpa was a men’s fast-pitch pitcher in Maryvale and Surprise leagues.
“My grandma, Gloria Barnes, pitched when she was at Coolidge High School. It runs in our family, definitely.”
 
The 20-year-old Durham competed in the 2017 Canada Cup International Softball Championship in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, from July 7 to July 17. She was one of 18 young women from U.S. junior colleges chosen to play for the 2017 NJCAA Softball National Team.
 
Competing in the international division, the team is in Pool A with Japan, Mexico and the Quebec Rebelles. The international division also features teams from Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Pakistan, Philippines and Puerto Rico. 
 
The NJCAA squad consists of four players off 2017 national title teams and 11 All-Americans, including Durham.
 
“I’m very honored to be chosen,” Durham said. “To get here, you have to be a sophomore at a junior college. They look at your statistics from your freshman and sophomore years. There are 18 girls in the whole U.S. who are chosen.”
 
As of press time, the U.S. was 4-4 at the tournament, but lost to the No. 1 team in the world, Japan. 
 
“We’re one of the only ones who scored against them,” she said. “I pitched once and I did very well. I’ve been playing outfield a little bit more than pitching. I play outfield, pitch and hit.”
 
Representing the United States has been a thrill for Durham. She’s met fellow athletes from Japan, Canada, Venezuela and Australia.
 
“No matter where you start and where you finish, you have a chance to get yourself out there,” she said. “Even the little people like me, who come from a small town in the middle of nowhere, can come out. Representing my country is amazing.”
 
She hopes to represent the United States on a bigger scale: at the next Olympic Games.
 
“I’m loving all of this,” Debbie Barnes said. “When she was little, she had such a talent and loved softball. I’m having fun with it. It’s my favorite sport.”
 
Playing softball has afforded her the opportunities to travel throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. 
 
“I’m very honored and blessed to have what I have,” Durham said. 
 
Her mother is just as thrilled.
 
“The experience has been amazing for her,” she said. “The girls, who didn’t know each other previously, have bonded really well. I sat with them last night watching Japan and team Canada. They’re just goofy girls having a good time.”
 
Durham, who also attended Estrella Foothills High School, graduated with a degree in general studies from Phoenix College and will transfer to University of South Dakota in the fall. She will play on the school’s softball team. This summer, she has been practicing with other West Valley high school graduates.
 
While at University of South Dakota, Durham will study health and physical wellness. She longs to be a firefighter like her uncle, Glendale Battalion Chief Ken Barnes. Debra Barnes said her daughter has visited with the battalion chief to gauge her interest in the career.
 
“I’m very inspired by my family,” she said. “I’m very lucky to have my family around me and support me the way they do.” 
 
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