Fox Chapel student selected for ‘Positive Athlete Award’

Fox Chapel Area School District  |  Posted on

Samantha Dunlap

In the final days of school before senior Samantha Dunlap graduated in June, the Foxes’ tri-sport athlete was working out on the stadium field when Athletic Director Mike O’Brien approached her. He had good news: she was selected as the 2020-2021 Western Pennsylvania Positive Athlete Award winner in girls soccer. The award is given to the “Most Positive High School Athletes” who serve as role models in their schools and who embody the “Seven Definitions of a Positive Athlete.” These student-athletes have an optimistic attitude, a heart for others, encourage their teammates, admit imperfections, put their team first, are servant leaders, and always give 100%.

“I was completely surprised because I didn’t think I had a chance of winning it,” says Sammi, a four-year member of the Lady Foxes soccer team and the starting goalkeeper for the past two years. Last season, she was a co-captain, named to the All-WPIAL and all-section teams, and was selected as one of the Valley News Dispatch girls soccer all-stars.

A couple of weeks after learning about her initial award, Sammi was even more shocked to find out that she had been selected among all female entries in the contest as the 2021 Knichel Logistics Title IX Award winner. The honor carries with it a $1,000 scholarship and is awarded to a female positive athlete who has shown amazing leadership to her entire school.

Kristy Knichel of Knichel Logistics had high praise for Sammi, saying, “She encompasses everything a positive athlete should be. … Her dedication to her peers is unbelievable.” Ms. Knichel specifically cited Sammi’s accomplishments such as her four years serving as president of Best Buddies, her involvement in the student Peer-to-Peer program, and her membership on the student and diversity councils. Over her high school years, Sammi also volunteered 150 hours to helping women in the community.

Mr. O’Brien also commended the student-athlete alum who carried a 4.0 QPA when she graduated.

“Sammi has an infectious positive attitude and is the ultimate teammate and competitor,” says the athletic director. “She met each game as a challenge and her bright outlook encouraged her teammates, both on and off the field, to do whatever it took to be successful as a team.”

“Whether it is on the field, or in her role leading the team’s support of the Best Buddies program, Sammi displays positive leadership by working hard and leading by example,” says Fox Chapel Areas High School girls soccer coach Peter Torres. “Her ability to be an effective goalkeeper is essential, but Sammi goes above and beyond with how she communicates with her defenders and her game awareness, and she was a tremendous teacher. Starting in preseason, Sammi spoke to the team and explained our role in the Best Buddies program and then did a tremendous job in explaining how to be a ‘Best Buddy.’ She was entrusted with several roles, including being the liaison between the program and the coaching staff, teaching the younger players how to meaningfully interact with the members of the program, and coordinating schedules so the Best Buddies members would participate or serve in supporting roles during games. With Sammi graduating, she leaves a huge void in the program.”

Sports Are Her Passion

Although Sammi was a four-year member of the Lady Foxes basketball team and has participated on the Unified Sports Track and Field team since its inception at the high school in 2019, her passion lies with soccer.
“I started when I was four or five and have just always been around sports because of my older brothers,” says Sammi. “I have always liked being active, so I guess it was just because of my brothers and my family and wanting to be active and make new friends.”

As she’s matured, Sammi has learned how to remain optimistic, even when situations or results were not as she would have liked them to be. That exactly was the case when the Fox Chapel Area High School girls soccer team was upset in the second round of the 2020 WPIAL Class 3A playoffs after winning the section and getting a high seed in the playoffs.

“After a game that was that tough, it was best to try to keep your head up and not talk negatively,” says Sammi, who has suffered her share of disappointments throughout her athletic career, yet she has always remained positive. “After games like that, you can hear a lot of negativity and blame, but it’s important not to add to it. I’ve found that if you fully immerse yourself in the ‘now’ that it makes it more enjoyable for everyone, no matter what you are doing. Positivity is contagious, but so is negativity, especially when things are not going your way and you’re facing adversity.”

The 2021 graduate feels very fortunate to have been able to share all those experiences with the girls who are on her teams each year.

“They are my best friends, on and off the field,” says Sammi, who was an honors student at Fox Chapel Area and will continue her studies at Notre Dame in the fall. “Having all of those memories with them was, by far, the best part of my senior year.”

Earning the Positive Athlete Award and her scholarship will be right up there with her other favorite memories.

“I am extremely excited, honored, and grateful for the recognition,” Sammi says. “It means a lot that other people noticed how hard I worked during my high school years, not only in sports, but for the community. I got a really good ending to my senior year!”