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By Seth Fink, Reporter

 

Playing a Division 1(D-1) sport means that you are playing in the strongest college division, usually with the best players. To many, this is a dream acquired as a little kid who think that they can do anything they want when they’re older. But usually is knocked off their life goals by the time they are in high school. However, for a few talented people, going D-1 isn’t a dream, but a reality. It is the thing that they have been working for since they were old enough to catch a ball. Most kids play a sport starting at a very young age, but give up on it as time passes because of lack of interest, and sometimes talent.

 

Senior Sam Mannix started playing tennis at age six, and has been playing for nearly 11 years.

 

“Throughout my whole experience, I never really had the desire to quit. There were definitely some ups and downs, but I never wanted to quit,” Mannix said.

 

For most kids, dreaming to play at a D-1 college is a shot in the dark, but Senior Taylor Knight knew she wanted to play softball from the very beginning.

 

“When I was younger, I set a goal of going D-1 and I really stuck with that throughout my life,” Knight said.

 

Similarly, playing at a D-1 college is something that Mannix always knew she wanted to do from the time she started playing tennis, but now it has become reality.

 

“It’s always been the goal for me to play in college even from the start, but the past couple years have become more realistic that I was going to play in college,” Mannix said.

 

After the final season of playing a high school sport forever, most teenagers sporting careers are done, but for the lucky bunch, high school is just where their sporting careers begin.

 

Player like Jake Bunz play almost every day of the week and as much as they can on the weekends. This is almost true for all athletes who are going to play at a higher level in the future.

 

“I try to play five times a week, and then possibly more if I have time,” Mannix said.

 

Being able to play a D-1 sport is not any easy task, so for many, they have important coaches who help motivate them to keep going.

 

“My tennis coach, Taylor Wain pushed me to be the best tennis player that I can be. After several years of tennis lessons and matches, he still makes me strive to learn something new and improve every practice,” Mannix said.

 

Parents also play a key factor in motivating these athletes.

 

“My mom and step dad, Tina and Bryan Schwahn, always supported me throughout my tennis career. They never pressured me and only wanted me to enjoy the game. I am so thankful for their love and support.

 

Likewise, Bunz feels blessed to have a supportive background.

 

“My parents pushed me to be the best I could possibly be and have always been there for me,” Bunz said.

 

For many future college athletes, getting recruited by a D-1 school is a hard process, but for Mannix, there were many options to chose from.

 

“My first offer was from Creighton, which offered me a full ride at the beginning of the summer. I was pretty surprised because Creighton wasn’t really one of my options but it was obviously pretty cool. I visited Nebraska unofficially, Creighton unofficially, and Iowa unofficially,” Mannix said.

 

Choosing which college to attend in order to play a D-1 sport was an easy task for all three Seniors.

 

“I choose Wichita State because they have great facilities and coaches. Bunz said.

 

Likewise, Knight choose Valparaiso because it was like home.

 

“I choose Valparaiso University because when I got on campus, it felt like home to me and I really like the coaches,” Knight said.

 

Obviously, choosing the right college is a difficult decision for most, but Mannix knew she found the right fit after stepping on campus.

 

 
“After visiting Iowa officially and talking with the coaches and getting to know the girls, it became very apparent to me and my parents that it was the right fit for me.” Mannix said.