Portlock, who will graduate this spring with both his high school diploma and Associate in Arts degree, continues to play tennis for his zoned high school, Winter Haven High. Students who attend Polk State’s collegiate high schools are still eligible to participate in clubs, sports and activities offered by the zoned school they otherwise would have attended.
Last week, Portlock and his fellow Blue Devils overcame rivals from Bartow High School to secure a place in the FHSAA Class 3A state finals. The team will face off against East Lake High School on Wednesday at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.
This is only the second time Winter Haven High has competed in the state championship, and the first time in Head Coach Pat Miller’s 14-year career at the school.
Portlock, who has been playing tennis since he was a young child, is an all-around strong player, but also a leader on the court, Miller said. This year, Portlock, a four-year starter, is team captain.
“The other players all look up to him like a big brother,” Miller said of Portlock. “His leadership qualities are beyond measure.”
Miller added that not only is Portlock consistent technically, he’s also developed the emotional maturity the sport requires.
“In tennis, you’re going to have good points where you can’t miss, and you’re going to have times where you can’t get anything in. You can’t get mad in tennis. If you get mad on the tennis court, you’re about done. It’s hard to recover. You have to control your emotions and play with a subdued passion,” Miller said.
“John went through the learning process, and now his maturity is rubbing off on the others.”
Portlock said it’s sometimes been challenging to balance the rigorous curriculum of Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate with the demands of tennis practice, but he’s grateful for the opportunity to pursue both academics and athletics.
“Every day has been worth it,” he said.
After graduating from Polk State, Portlock will continue his education at the University of Florida to study history and community development.
Portlock isn’t the only member of the WHHS tennis team with Polk State connections. Sophomores Noah Kendall and Sean Baz dual enroll at the College.
Polk State College operates three public charter high schools, including Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate in Winter Haven, Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate, and Polk State Lakeland Collegiate. All three high schools allow students to fulfill requirements for their diplomas while also earning college credits.