Peyton Dunkle commits to play tennis for Cal Poly

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Madelyn Ferreros, Reporter, Sports Department Editor

Only two percent of U.S. student athletes earn an athletic scholarship to pay for college. In past years Arroyo Grande High School (AGHS) has had the privilege to witness our athletes earn a spot amongst that two percent and this year is no exception. Peyton Dunkle is one of the handful of students at AGHS who has earned a college scholarship and will soon be training amongst other Division I athletes. 

Dunkle is a senior and at the end of April, verbally committed to play Division I women’s tennis at California Polytechnic State University. Her decision to play for this state university consisted of some aspects she couldn’t help but adore. 

“I love the coaches and have connected with some of the teammates who made it feel really welcoming. It’s a great school and SLO is a beautiful area to live in,” Dunkle said. 

Dunkle started playing tennis when she was three years old and has shared her love for the sport with her father, Bill Dunkle, who has not only significantly impacted her athletic journey but her character development. 

“My dad is my coach and has supported me throughout my whole tennis career and has gotten me to where I am today,” she began. “Without him, I wouldn’t be the tennis player and person I have become.”

Playing tennis at a highly competitive level hasn’t been a walk in the park for Dunkle. She’s had to overcome a handful of injuries and tough obstacles that have attempted to drag her down. Yet, throughout the years she has continued to believe in her determination and work ethic to surpass challenges and to achieve her goal of playing tennis in college.  

“I knew I could make all my hard work pay off and play at the collegiate level,” Dunkle said. 

Many young athletes go through a burn-out period which can lead them to quit their sport because of the sport’s demands and their lack of confidence in their ability to get to a higher level. Dunkle isn’t afraid to admit that she too has experienced the temptations to give up and simply quit. However, she never gave in because each time she drifted, her family was right there to help her find her way back. 

“My family has always been there for me to remind me of my ultimate goal to keep pushing myself and not quit,” she expressed. 

As a result of her hard work and motivations, she achieved her scholarship goal, and starting in the fall will be able to start on a great path to further her athletic career and receive a high-quality education.

“My family, through my ups and downs in my tennis career, have always been there for me to keep going and help me reach my goals,” she said. “They have guided me through this process and motivated me to get a scholarship to play the sport that is loved throughout our family.”

Many athletes, even professionals, experience setbacks and obstacles that back them into a corner. They are then forced to either find a way out or crumble under the pressure of the situation. Dunkle is no exception to this occurrence. 

“I’ve had many injuries that I had to go through and play through but they’ve only made me stronger,” she professed. 

The reason why Dunkle has remained so resilient is that she purposely works on her mentality and her craft. She does not underestimate the power of the mind and how it leads people astray and down the wrong path.

“Over the years I’ve definitely worked on my mental toughness to stay calm in frustrating situations and to stay motivated to come back when I’m down…I[’ve] worked on my game for years to learn the ins and outs of what to do in certain situations,” she explained. 

While working on her mentality and skills, Dunkle always had her loving supporters in the stands: her mom and dad. 

“My parents have always had my best interest and have wanted me to do what I love. They’ve come to every single match I’ve played and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my goals.” 

Dunkle obtained her dream of playing Division I tennis. However, what she has accomplished now is only the beginning. 

“I can’t wait to compete at a college level, make new goals and continue to push myself,” she stated. Dunkle isn’t one to settle and it shows throughout her tennis and academic career that she is willing to give it her all.