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The Duo: Danielle Block and Dana Dillistone

Two student-athletes. Four years at Southern Miss. Fall 2017 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Enter the worlds of Southern Miss softball pitcher Danielle Block and track, cross country runner Dana Dillistone.

Block and Dillistone on April 11 were named to the Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities list, a prestigious list that gains even more magnitude considering their athletic and other extracurricular workloads. Block, who currently serves as the president of the Southern Miss Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, even earned university Hall of Fame distinction.

“It was cool linking up with the plaques and certificates and seeing the 20 or 30 seniors, to be recognized among the senior class as a top student,” Block said. “I know everyone has their own things, but we have a big-time commitment with athletics and to represent our teams and department as a whole on stage was so much bigger than ourselves.”

What is especially funny is that the two student-athletes, although both regular honorees for their academic and community accomplishments, admit that outside of being acquaintances in one class over their collegiate careers, have grown to know each other fairly well in their last month as undergrads and will be in all the same classes at UMMC.

Dillistone is keeping her options open, but said primary care is where she is leaning, including pediatrics and ObGyn. Block says she is keeping to others’ advice on keeping an open mind “like Dana,” but has found ObGyn intriguing.

“I thought about ObGyn because one of the softball team fans told me it’s really awesome because you get to be with a patient during the best time of your life, so a happy time like pregnancy versus other times as a doctor where people aren’t as happy,” she said. “That was an interesting perspective and it opened my eyes on paying attention through rotations and stuff.”

It gets even more immaculate considering what the two have done when wearing their respective team’s uniforms. Dillistone has consistently broken her own school records in the 1500 and 5000m (16:44.12 that was also the best mark at the Crimson Tide Invitational on April 8). Block held the Golden Eagles’ top ERA her sophomore season and made the most of her first 2017 start on April 12, no-hitting Southern for four innings en route to a complete-game shutout.

But surely there have been moments where athletics and academics convoluted into moments that could make them stronger.

“My junior year was my hardest by far,” Block said. “I was taking o-chem classes and preparing for the MCAT and that was super stressful. I forget where we were playing, but it was coming back from a Sunday night game and I was on my computer studying for a test or working on lab work, and I remember turning and looking behind me and everything was dark and everyone was asleep. I just couldn’t because I had lab write-ups and other stuff going on. It was a moment of “alright, I’m doing something pretty tough but it will be worth it for sure.”

Dillistone had her similar moments, except in an even more overt setting.

“I would be at track meets with notes out,” she said. “Everyone would be watching the events and I would be looking down on them. On the road after breakfast we would shake out and go back to bed and I would go down to the lobby and do homework. It was a lot of good time management and having to stay focused.”

So where did the medical fascination come from?

“I was always interested in science and it was my thing in school,” Block said. “I liked putting band-aids on people and was just real interested in that. I started off undecided my freshman year and my second semester I was a business major and after that summer I decided I would do science. Everyone told me the labs would be hard and I wouldn’t have time because of softball. But I realized business didn’t interest me.”

Dillistone, a product of Oak Grove High School, credits one of her old chemistry teachers for not only fostered her love of the subject, but also for giving her advice in choosing it for a major.

“I liked science and didn’t really know what to do with it yet, but I’m just so interested in the human body and that’s one of the exciting things about UMMC, just learning about the body and all the processes and stuff like that,” she said.

It was that close proximity to Southern Miss that made her a Golden Eagle fan her whole life. The then-teenager thought her recruitment process diligently through and ultimately went all-in for the Black and Gold.

“I had an old teammate who ran here, and my coaches here knew mine from high school so there was communication,” Dillistone said. “I originally didn’t want to stay close to home but now I’m so glad I’m here. I’ve come to a lot of Southern Miss games and knew it my whole life. I’ve been a fan for a while. Originally I wanted to go somewhere other than Hattiesburg, but the team here is such a family.”

Block also had a strong high school connection, albeit more than 1,500 miles away.

“My freshman year, the coaches we had here used to be at ASU and [Coach Kirsten Voak] had been one of my pitching coaches growing up,” she said. “When they got the job out here they said ‘hey, we want you to come out to Mississippi and check out the campus, you’ll really like it.” I came on a visit and fell in love, and having never been in the South before I really loved the green. The campus is so pretty here and it was awesome feeling with the athletic department.

“I committed on my first visit.”

Block also said that the coaching transition to Wendy Hogue and her staff her sophomore year was “awesome,” and how fortunate she was to have the seamless transition that many other athletes and new coaches are sometimes without. Hogue, a native and longtime coach in the Hattiesburg area who previously served at Petal High School and William Carey, shared nothing but compliments on Block’s persona.

“She is an incredible student-athlete,” Hogue said. “Her ability to stay focused and balance all she has going on is proof that she will continue to achieve success after leaving Southern Miss. Our program, university, conference and community are better because she chose to be a part of them.”

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