The Class of 2018 graduates of Riverside-Brookfield High School Class will likely spend the summer working at a job, playing sports, partying with friends or taking a family vacation are some of the most popular choices.
RBHS senior Nora Dachota’s itinerary is different.
“I leave for basic training on June 28,” said Dachota, who will be attending the United States Air Force Academy. “It hasn’t hit me yet that I’ll be graduating from RB soon.”
Dachota’s athletic high school career came to a close last week when the RBHS softball team lost 5-0 to host Hinsdale South in a regional semifinal. The Bulldogs finished 17-12 with a 7-4 record and fourth-place finish in the Metro Suburban Conference. Team leaders included Emily Noel (.454, 40 RBIs), Kailyn Ngo (.449, 25 runs scored) and Lauren Lambros (.425, 30 runs scored0. Ten players hit .326 or better.
“This season had its ups and downs to say the least,” RBHS coach Doug Schultz said. “We started out strong by winning our first five games. We had to deal with the worst weather I have seen as a coach in my career and we lost our momentum. Then, we finished .500 after that hot start. Our hitting stayed consistent for most of the season, but our defense is what cost us a few games this year.”
The Hinsdale South loss served as a disappointing end to a rewarding experience for Dachota with the Bulldogs.
“The Hinsdale South game was a good representation of the whole season,” Dachota said. “We made six errors and let in five runs. Our mindset was weak at times this season. We talked about it and tried to make improvements, but it was a struggle.”
However, to steal a line from Frederick Douglass, if there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Dachota experienced her share of ups and downs in softball. As the Bulldogs’ top starting pitcher in 2016 and 2017, her role was reduced this spring for a variety of reasons.
“I missed more games and practices than usual this season because I was making visits to the Air Force Academy and I had my wisdom teeth removed,” Dachota said. “In addition, Nadia [Ranieri] and Tori [Blood] became really good pitchers.”
Consequently, Dachota contributed when and where she could as a no-nonsense pitcher, utility infielder and designated player. She finished the season hitting .352 with four RBIs and 13 runs scored. Dachota also had a .417 on-base percentage and .370 slugging percentage.
“RB softball was a great experience overall. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Dachota said. “I just wish it didn’t end with such a downer of a game against Hinsdale South. We were a very close team.”
Dachota strived to develop her game as a multi-sport athelte. Prior to softball, she was on the cross country and basketball teams as an underclassman; however, two ACL injuries was a major factor in her just sticking to softball.
“Nora Dachota is a impressive young lady and softball player,” Schultz said. “She is one of the most focused and goal-oriented players I have seen. To put it in softball terms, Nora came to every game ‘locked in.'”
Dachota has developed off the field as well. Taking five AP classes this year, she finished with 4.0 grade point average. She’s a member of the National Honor Society as well.
Why one of the nation’s service academies?
“As soon as I started talking about colleges with my counselors, teachers and parents, I never really felt like the traditional course was for me,” Dachota said. “I felt like something would be missing in my life if I went the ‘four years of college and then get a job’ route. I really wanted to serve my country and I know the U.S. service academies offered outstanding academics as well.
“Honestly, I didn’t even think I had a chance of getting in,” she added. “The service academies are very selective. It worked out very well.”
Dachota considered the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, with a lean towards the former. Her preference changed when she experienced the Air Force Academy on a three-day visit.
“The Air Force Academy asked me to attend a program on campus which greatly influenced my decision,” Dachota sad. “I fell in love with the campus and strong academics. I’d like to study in one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs.”
She also hopes to play on the Air Force Academy softball club team.
Choosing Air Force over Navy wasn’t nearly as involved as gaining admittance.
“The process started last year,” Dachota said. “In addition to filling out the regular application with an essay, I had to get a nomination from a United States senator or congressman. I got one from Senator Tammy Duckworth for the Naval Academy and Congressman Luis Gutierrez nominated me for both the Air Force and Naval Academies.”
Dachota also had to complete a medical form called the DoDMERB (Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board) and a Candidate Fitness Assessment which includes push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, mile-run shuttle run and basketball throw.
“It’s kind of funny because none of my family is in the military. There is no family influence,” Dachota said. “I really didn’t know too much about it. It just came from own desire to serve my country. I remember going to Veterans Day assemblies. When I heard veterans tell their stories, it really inspired me.”