Central Kitsap didn’t even offer gymnastics as a sport, but 2002 graduate Amanda Hall, now Amanda Dunn, relied on her determination and commitment to land a college scholarship in gymnastics at the University of New Hampshire . Next month, her story will add a chapter, when she is inducted into the University of New Hampshire Sports Hall of Fame.
Dunn set several school records while competing for Gail Goodspeed, who coached the sport at school in Durham, New Hampshire, for 40 years before retiring three years ago. To say that Hall has become a star in New Hampshire is to understate it. She led the Wildcats in performance, but was equally important as a team leader.
“She was one of the best gymnasts in New Hampshire,” says Goodspeed. “She was consistent. If she was having a bad day at practice, you never knew. She was just concentrating on what she had to do.
“In terms of floor and jump, she was one of the best in the country, I think. She was quick and powerful. But most of all, she’s just a good person and top of the GPA (grade point average).
“Every day was a fun day for Amanda. And she was a great leader, not only by example, but she was very good at expressing a point of view about what was needed to make us better. We had a lot of lucky to have it.”
Dunn has New Hampshire’s top four all-around scores, with a record 39.475, and six of the top eight. She shares the floor exercise record, having twice scored 9.975, and is tied for third in the vault at 9.950.
Gymnasts typically toil largely unnoticed and out of the spotlight, and if they do receive encouragement, it’s usually from a small group of coaches, family and friends. In other words, if you’re looking for applause to get you going, you’re in the wrong sport.
That didn’t deter Dunn, Jeff and Cathy Hull’s only child, who discovered the sport early on after starting out in ballet and then stumbled upon tumbling and gymnastics, which she immediately fell in love with.
“Amanda started a tumbling class when she was three or four years old,” says Cathy Hall. “She tried other activities like dancing, but found gymnastics was her niche.”
Amanda adds, “I started in an after-school program just doing ballet initially. It wasn’t fast enough for me. I loved tumbling and they had a club gymnastics team that I could compete with.
Gymnastics quickly grabbed Amanda and she never let go. She started training with Greg Mutchler at the Olympic Gymnastics Center in Silverdale at the age of seven and was impressed almost immediately.
“What I remember separating her from a group of kids that I had more physically was that she had the tools to bounce back,” says Mutchler. “She also seemed to remember the corrections very well and corrected them. Some kids couldn’t make them because they’re scary.
“She was a fun kid to work with, she had a fun personality and always seemed to have a good smile. She was definitely a hard worker and stood out from the crowd…by a lot.
Level 10 is the highest one can get before jumping into the elite class, which is the most difficult of all and is usually reserved for gymnasts trying to make the US national team and the Olympics.
By the time Dunn was 16 and a junior at CK, she was reaching level 10 and felt the need to join a club where the team was big and where she could develop and hone her skills and hopefully be offered a university scholarship.
Dunn and Jacynda Wnek, who would later go to the University of Washington, decided to train with coach Brian Muenz and Grace Gymnastics at the Lakewood YMCA. Hall had gone with the Pacific Northwest All Star team to Monterey, Mexico for the XI International Elite Cup while with Mutchler and ended up at international meets in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico with Muenz.
“When Amanda came to us she was already well trained,” says Muenz, who has been coaching for 45 years. “Greg Mutchler did an amazing job with her.”
What Muenz did was work on the bars with Dunn, which was his weakness at the time.
Colleges noticed Hall’s excellence as he worked with Muenz and soon enough scholarship offers were offered – visits to Missouri, Pittsburgh, Arizona State, to name a few. some.
Hall liked New Hampshire after visiting Durham.
“I really liked the team and the coaches,” Dunn said. “New Hampshire’s environment was water and green trees and it was so familiar. They also had a beach. The campus is surrounded by water. And Durham is a 20-minute drive from the Maine border and 45 minutes south of Boston.
In other words, the University of New Hampshire was a home away from home. Hall also excelled in class. She was in pre-med and warmed to the idea of working for a doctor instead of being the one making the life and death decisions.
“I liked the idea of collaborating with someone rather than having the responsibility on my own,” Dunn says.
So Dunn earned her master’s degree at the University of New England as a medical assistant and worked two years as an orthopedic assistant in New Hampshire, before moving to Park City, Utah, three years ago with her husband, Joe Dunn, and sons Bryce, 5, and Dylan, 3. She now works as a medical assistant at an ENT clinic in Salt Lake City.
The family moved to Park City because it had great skiing — Dunn skied competitively for UNH — and other outdoor activities. The whole family skis on its world famous powder snow, in addition to hiking and climbing.
“The mountains here are a big part of why we moved,” says Amanda. “We have a season pass to ski here in Park City and we like to travel to the other resorts when possible. Our two boys started skiing when they were one year old, but this year they have both made huge progress. Bryce can ride a chairlift alone and ski on blue runs (moderate terrain) and Dylan skis alone on beginner runs. I didn’t ski in college. I had to learn at 22.
The family will return to New Hampshire for the Hall of Fame inductions on June 11 in which Dunn and five others will be inducted into the class of 2022.
“She so deserves something like this,” Muenz says.
“It’s going to be fun to see Amanda get inducted,” Goodspeed says. “New Hampshire doesn’t induct too many people. A very small number of people are inducted, so it’s special.
“It’s awesome and I’m thrilled to be honoured,” Dunn said. “Gymnastics is a great sport. It really shaped who I am. It taught me life lessons. I encourage anyone to check it out. Gymnastics teaches you a lot and how to balance your life.
Terry Mosher is a longtime Kitsap sportswriter who writes a regular column for The Sun on local sports personalities. Contact him at [email protected].