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In a sense, York High School girls’ tennis player Kristen Dantzler has been overshadowed on her own team, normally playing in the No. 2 singles position while other teammates grabbed the spotlight. But almost unnoticed, she has rewritten the York record book while battling her opponents and, in a sense, herself.
Dantzler is a Type 1 diabetic who has managed to overcome the odds in her four years as a Falcons tennis player. Earlier this season, in a match against Lafayette, she simultaneously broke York’s all-time records for singles match victories and overall wins.
Danztler has a career singles record of 61-6 and an overall record, including doubles matches, of 117-12. And these records still could grow as the Falcons continue play in the Region 3A East tournament.
Dentzler’s accomplishments eclipse the records previously set by 2015 York graduate Gabi Tersigni, who notched 56 singles victories and 105 combined wins in her four years.
How does Dantzler account for her success?
Outside of her developing skill set, for which she credits her private Williamsburg tennis coach of the past two years, Brent Hughes, the future Randolph-Macon College tennis player says a little attitude goes a long way.
“One coach told me I have heart,” Dantzler says. “Maybe I haven’t always had the prettiest form, but I go out there with the mentality that I’m going to win.”
A strong desire to win has served Dantzler well over the years, as she has battled to manage her blood sugar levels during matches.
If her blood sugar is too high, her body feels heavy and her feet feel like they’re planted in cement. And if her blood sugar drops too low, she may experience weakness and her body may start to shake, Dantzler says. Both scenarios are less than optimal for someone who aspires to be a state tennis champion.
As if things weren’t already tough enough, Dantzler also has to use specialized blood sugar testing equipment during changeovers in matches to continually monitor her blood sugar levels.
During the regular tennis season, almost every team gives her the time she needs to test her levels. However, postseason tennis features strict time limits during changeovers, forcing Dantzler to scramble to check her levels in the one minute of allotted time. If she exceeds that limit or feels that her blood sugar levels are out of balance, she will need to use her only 10-minute medical timeout to straighten things out.
It’s a delicate balancing act, and Dantzler says it’s almost impossible to predict blood sugar fluctuations before to a match. As a result, she sometimes has to adjust her strategy and energy output accordingly in the midst of a match.
“I have to fight through whatever I’m feeling,” she says. “I push through it and I pray — oh gosh, I pray. I just hope I can make it through it.
“Training has helped a lot, just getting used to how I’m feeling and knowing if my blood sugar is starting to crash,” she adds. “Trying to get it stable before it gets to a critical low.”
While Dantzler has done an exemplary job of managing her blood sugar levels over the years, one of her few losses came as a result of complications. During her freshman year, Dantzler went through a severe blood sugar swing in the middle of a match and proceeded to lose her momentum and, ultimately, the match.
Aside from that one slip up, Dantzler has gone about her business with record-breaking success. Of her other five losses, four came against teammates in the post-season and one came against an eventual state champion.
Dantzler doesn’t know why she loses to teammates in the postseason; perhaps her mindset changes when playing a familiar foe. Whatever the reason, she isn’t overly concerned.
For Dantzler, staying focused on closing out her final postseason is the No. 1 priority. And whether she’s hoists a state championship trophy or not, she can rest easy knowing her records at York are likely to stand for quite some time.