If it seems like Peter Conklin has been around playing high school tennis for more than four years, that’s because he has.
For six years, Conklin was in the starting lineup for singles play at the Hopkins School in New Haven. He was the No. 6 player as a seventh grader, a part of a team that included Nolan Paige, who went on to play at Stanford University. That team went on to win the New England Prep School Athletic Conference championship.
Conklin went on to help the Hilltoppers win four more, including the last two in the Class B Division as the No. 1 singles player. He also repeated as the Register’s Area MVP for boys tennis.
“It’s definitely pretty amazing,” Conklin said. “It’s definitely a tough thing to accomplish. You need four or five very good players to win the matches. There are a lot of good prep schools in New England.”
Bryan Adinolfi, Conklin’s coach, believed Conklin’s “mental toughness and ability to perform under pressure is like no other player I ever coached.” He also admired how Conklin decided to stick with the program rather than concentrate solely on his own game.
“A player of his caliber could easily choose to skip high school tennis and train on his own and play national tournaments,” Adinolfi said. “But Peter as a captain matured into a great team leader and role model for the younger players at Hopkins.”
Conklin, the Fairchester Athletic Association singles champion, who went 17-1 at No. 1 singles and 9-1 at No. 1 doubles for the Hilltoppers this season, took a page out of Paige’s book, watching him work hard in practice each day. “He came to practice every day ready to work. Every ball mattered to him,” Conklin said.
And in turn, each practice mattered to Conklin, as did the legacy of the program. It’s something he tried to instill in the kids who will be back next year and the year after that.
“It will be a pretty young team next year. I wanted to leave them with good thoughts, what it means to be a captain of the team, how hard you should work to try to be a good teammate,” Conklin said.
The 6-foot-1 Conklin, currently ranked fourth in New England in the 18 age group, will play a similar summer schedule as he has in the past, concluding with the USTA National Hardcourts Championships In Kalamazoo, Michigan in August. But then he heads to a different destination at the end of August.
Notre Dame, Michigan State and Boston College were some of the colleges Conklin was looking at. He always wanted a college with a similar profile that Hopkins had: very good academics along with a good tennis program.
So he will continue his tennis career at Dartmouth.
“I loved the coaches. I thought having them as my coaches would help improve my game more. It’s a good school with a lot of opportunities,” said Conklin, who is leaning toward majoring in economics. “It’s pretty close to home. Everyone I talk to about Dartmouth really seemed to love it. It seemed like the right fit overall.”
Conklin knows he will have to work even harder on his physical fitness to have good success at the college level. And it’s safe to say he has left his own legacy on the Hopkins program.
“He has been the definition of the most valuable player for years and his name will be remembered for a very long time at Hopkins and in our league (the FAA),” Adinolfi said.