Dunkelman earns student-athlete honor
NORTHERN NEVADA TOP 10
Sean Dunkelman, Douglas
Lane Condie, Pershing County (Lovelock)
Cameron Emerson, Reed (Sparks)
Jake Oliphant, Spring Creek
Aric Turner, Damonte Ranch (Reno)
Faith Cornmesser, Churchill County (Fallon)
Angelica Hurtado, Sparks
Reilly Moss, Galena (Reno)
Mikayla Shults, Reno
Anna Yamauchi, North Tahoe (Tahoe City)
Sean Dunkelman was the only Douglas High School runner to compete at the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association State Cross Country Championships on this November day. But he hadn’t been alone on the course by any means.
After crossing the finish line, the senior took a few minutes to catch his breath before gesturing to more than 20 team members and friends to join him for a group photograph. You see, he wanted to make sure and share the moment in appreciation to everyone for being in Sparks to support him.
It was a moment that illustrates teamwork and leadership qualities for which Dunkelman has been chosen as one of the NIAA’s Top Ten Student-Athletes of the Year for Northern Nevada. Ten high school seniors from the North, five young women and five young men, will be recognized at a banquet on April 30 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno. The South’s Top Ten student-athletes will be honored at a banquet on April 24 in Las Vegas.
The award program, which is worth a $500 scholarship, acknowledges student-athletes who “exemplify total school and community involvement.” Special consideration is given to students who participate in multiple sports, other school activities such as student government and community service projects, as well as high academic standards.
It’s quite a juggling act — which happens to be another of Dunkelman’s many talents — yet he has achieved success as a three-sport athlete (cross country, alpine skiing and baseball) who is working toward his 10th varsity letter this spring. Academically, he carries a 4.88 weighted grade point average and is a National Merit Scholar finalist, and for good measure, he has served as student body president this year.
The 5-foot-6, 125-pound Dunkelman is one of nine Douglas students to receive Top Ten recognition overall and the first since Nick Maestretti in 2012.
“I’m super humbled,” he said this week. “It’s an honor to be considered for this list (of student-athletes) — I know some of them and they’re really great — and it’s a real honor to be up on our wall in the commons (with past Douglas winners).”
None of this has happened by accident. Just consider the letter of recommendation written to the NIAA by Jay Frey, who has worked with Dunkelman as cross country coach, leadership teacher and chemistry teacher.
“In terms of impressiveness and maintaining both quality and quantity of academic, athletic and interpersonal success, there are very few others I would place within the vicinity of Sean Dunkelman,” Frey wrote. “And to me, it is not his statistics of intellectual or physical proficiency that impress the most. He is humble and caring, giving and encouraging, curious and hard-working, courageous and reflective.”
For example, Dunkelman took 14th-place at the state meet (his fastest time for 5 kilometers is 16:25).
He then turned to winter and a season on the high-powered Tahoe Basin Ski League circuit, where he took second-place during the regular season and at the championship meet in March. He was a three-time state qualifier in cross country and four-time qualifier in skiing.
So far this spring, Dunkelman has started at second base and provided key contributions offensively and defensively during his second season with the varsity baseball team.
This success has not come without help, as Dunkelman explained in the essay he wrote for the Top Ten Student-Athlete consideration.
“If there’s anything this world needs, it’s more role models,” Dunkelman wrote. “In my own life, I have been extremely fortunate to find incredible role models in my family, coaches, teachers, friends and teammates. My role models have shaped the person I am today and I have passed on their legacy by becoming a role model myself.
“The easiest way to do so, in my eyes, was to pursue leadership roles so that I could maximize the impact I made on the people around me. As a three-sport varsity athlete, I sought out leadership roles on my teams because I wanted to help my teams reach their full potential.”
During his senior cross country season, Dunkelman served as team captain, was chosen by fellow runners as the Most Valuable Teammate and received the Foundation Award from the team coaches.
“The culmination of my athletic career came when I was presented with the Foundation Award by my cross country coach for my contributions towards the future success of the program,” Dunkelman noted in his essay.
Marc Walling, dean of students and athletic director at Douglas, formerly coached Dunkelman in baseball.
“He faced obstacles head-on and welcomed any challenge with a confident, level-headed approach,” Walling wrote in his letter of recommendation. “Sean has a ton of confidence in himself and is the ultimate teammate.”
Even his vacation time doesn’t pass idly. Last summer, for example, Dunkelman spent one week in Austria as part of a short-term Rotary Youth Exchange program. Before that, his pre-calculus requirements were completed through online classes during the summer before the start of his junior year, school counselor Kira Brown noted in her letter of recommendation.
“Sean is one of the most well-rounded individuals I have had the pleasure of working with,” Brown wrote. “I truly believe he will be an asset to any school he attends and will positively impact this world.”
Dunkelman went the extra mile in cross country and performed the same way in the classroom, Frey explained.
“Sean seems to enjoy learning and doesn’t just complete the assignments to get points, he cares about the process and understands the significance of it,” Frey wrote. “There’s no doubt Sean is an above average student and he earns his success.”
Dunkelman, who is still undecided on his college plans, said he simply tries to set a positive example in everything he does.
“As a student, I have worked vigorously to be the best, constantly challenging myself by taking the most rigorous courses available,” Dunkelman wrote. “I also understand that I have been very fortunate in my life, and am constantly looking for ways to give back to my community that has given so much to me.”