BY DAVE MCCONNELL
It’s been nine years since I first saw Peyton Pesavento play tennis. It impressed me that this 12-year-old was getting up at 5:30 in the morning and coming to one of my fitness classes with her dad. Like most 12-year-old girls, Peyton was somewhat frail and was excited to start a strengthening program. It took me a very short time watching her play tennis to realize Peyton was going to be special. The somewhat shy, thin little girl I knew in class was not the same person on the court. The ferocity when she hit the ball was beyond anything I’d seen for high school players, much less for a 12-year-old. There was another quality that stood out as I watched her play. Peyton was a fierce competitor. She went after every point like it was the final point of the U.S. Open. Nine years later, that special little girl has turned into a special young lady. Here’s her story.
Peyton, whose dad Pat played football and baseball at Notre Dame, played many different sports as a kid. She excelled in soccer, basketball, volleyball, and tennis. After her success in state tournaments at the age of 12, she started competing and succeeding in regional and national tournaments. It was at this time she realized she had a bright future in tennis. She now had the confidence she needed to set her goals at a very high standard. To reach those goals, it would take a tremendous amount of determination, discipline, and sacrifice, not only for Peyton but for her entire family. Peyton says she will always remember the drives to workouts or practices with her mom or dad before the sun had come up. Practice during the school year generally lasted for three or four hours. This meant getting home for a late meal and doing homework until bedtime. Weekends were generally spent practicing 7 hours or playing in tournaments. The summer before her junior year, Peyton and her parents made the decision to allow her to enter a prestigious tennis academy in Charleston, SC. This meant leaving her family and friends and going to live with other elite tennis players. Her schooling would be all online and the success would be determined by the diligence and discipline of a 17-year-old. Let’s not forget this 17-year-old is the same 12-year old that got up at five every morning to workout. For Peyton, it wasn’t an issue.
Peyton’s hard work paid off at the end of her junior year. Straight A’s and a national ranking in tennis got the attention of many college coaches, but when one of the elite tennis and academic schools, Wake Forest University, offered a full scholarship, the recruiting was over. Peyton was a Demon Deacon! Peyton’s success on the court carried over in her freshman year at Wake. She posted an 18-10 record in singles and an impressive rating of 98 in the International Tennis Association. While her success in tennis has been quite an accomplishment for any 12-year-old, there’s more to Peyton’s story. At a very young age, Peyton began drawing. What started as a hobby during what little free time she had, has turned into much more. Her talent became so obvious that in high school, she began selling some of her work. She now has a website and between her tennis and schoolwork finds the time to make some spending money from her artwork.
Peyton’s plans for the future, while uncertain, are definitely bright. She plans to go to Physician Assistant School after completing her undergraduate degree. A professional tennis career still looms as a possibility. As for art, Peyton will continue drawing and painting, and does not rule this out as a possible career either. Whatever the future holds, you can rest assured she will work to be the best and more than likely be highly successful. You can visit Peyton’s website at peytonspalette.com.