Dalton Sluder was going to be one of the top tennis players in the conference in 2020 before the season ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Joey Icenhour
By Tim Chambers
Dalton Sluder had stepped up his tennis game to a level as to where he had become one of the top players in the conference and appeared to be headed for the TSSAA state tournament. After a memorable junior season in tennis, he and Will Henson were a heavy favorite to make the state tournament, but he failed to do so because of the Covid-19 virus that cut the season short.
It was a devastating blow for Sluder, who only plays tennis and is a key member of Johnson County High School’s award-winning robotics team.
Yet there is nothing robotic about his tennis game. He has been playing for five years, learning much of the sport from hits mother Dr. Rana Sluder, who has taught him well. Consistent could best describe how he plays, yet Sluder took the time to talk about his strengths and weaknesses.
“I have a strong forehand, and I play pretty well at the back,” said Sluder about his game. I can change up to hitting heavy topspin and strong slap shots. I’ll do whatever is needed to change it up in a match.”
Sluder knew the team would fare well with the right amount of players coming out.
“The top four guys we had were all solid players,” capable of making it to the state. We needed a few more to come out and learn, but I did like our chances with what we already had on the team. We definitely had a really good girl’s team.”
Sluder’s most memorable moment as a tennis player came during his freshman season. He won his first-round District match and made it to the regional tournament last year. As for now, he plans to keep on playing tennis with friends in college, where he will be attending Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. There he will compete in Robotics, another love he had at Johnson County High School before graduating.
He plans on becoming a mechanical engineer upon graduating from college.
“I’ve been doing Robotics longer than tennis, so this is something that I’ve always wanted to do.”
His high school team qualified for the world competition, but it got canceled, which was a hard pill to swallow.
“I feel like a lot of my senior year got cut short without tennis and Robotics to turn to.” Things happen for a reason, but it was a bummer,” said Sluder, who is looking forward to competing at the college level.”
Sluder said that his mother, two teachers Zack Pittman and Casey Dishman, his tennis and Robotic coaches, have had a significant impact on him while in high school. Sluder won’t be making the trip to Tennessee Tech by himself.Two other Johnson County students will be attending college with Sluder. Emily Irizarry and Jonathan Wilcox will take those talents to Cookeville alongside Sluder.
“We’re good friends. It’s going to be great having them down there.”
He plans on coming back and helping with the tennis and Robotic teams. Dalton is the son of Craig and Dr. Rana Sluder of Mountain City. He has a sister Kalli who was an outstanding softball player for the Lady Longhorns just a few seasons back. Dalton left this for anyone younger wanting to follow in his footsteps excelling in athletics and academics.
“Don’t be afraid to follow your passions. Once you get into a group, it’s easier to come out of your shell and do something that you love to show your passion. That’s how it worked for me.”