BRIGHTON — As Cheyenne Nunez sat on a picnic bench wearing her purple Okeechobee High letter jacket near the ball fields on the Brighton Reservation, a voice from hundreds of yards away pierced the quiet late morning.
“Hi Cheyenne,” yelled the student from far across the complex.
Cheyenne responded back with a “hi” even though not certain who the greeting came from.
The voice belonged to a Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School student, who knows who Cheyenne Nunez is, like so many of the students at the K-8th grade school.
It seems everyone knows Cheyenne, whether it’s on the Brighton Reservation, where she grew up; at Okeechobee High School, where she starred for four years as a multi-sport athlete; and in the town of Okeechobee, thanks in part to having a feature layout about her in Okeechobee The Magazine this spring.
Such recognition didn’t come easy, but as Cheyenne pointed out, the sacrifices she made to maintain a 3.5-plus grade point average while playing three varsity sports for four years – the only student in the entire Okeechobee High class of 2016 to earn 12 varsity letters – have been worth the price.
“You’re so focused on academics and athletics that you lose time with your friends, you lose time with your family. It’s hard,” she said. “It is a struggle. You have to have the heart for it.”
Cheyenne has been a standout on the varsity volleyball, basketball and softball teams, so it came as no surprise that she was named the “Most Athletic” girl in her class, a recognition she didn’t take lightly.
“I was very honored to get that,” she said.
In addition to the bevy of varsity letters, which fill the left sleeve on her jacket, the daughter of Peggy and Daniel Nunez Sr. also earned Scholar Athlete patches in every sport. There’s just not enough room on the jacket for all the accolades.
Between digs, dribbles and doubles, not to mention a year spent as Junior Miss Florida Seminole and all the duties for the Tribe that the title carries, how did Cheyenne not allow her grade point average or batting average to slip?
“Balancing was very difficult,” she said. “The only way I got through it was probably motivation, the heart and passion for the game and knowing that I wanted to play college ball in either volleyball or softball.”
Although volleyball and softball were her top sports in high school, basketball provided one of the fondest memories for Cheyenne. In a game against Moore Haven in her sophomore season,
Cheyenne and the rest of her teammates found themselves staring at a large deficit.
“During the first half, I was horrible. I was so bad. My dad left because he was so mad at me. I was upset. During halftime I was crying,” Cheyenne recalled. “I went outside, took a deep breath and said I can do this.”
Behind Cheyenne, Okeechobee rallied.
“I went back in and hit about four 3-pointers and caught us back up,” she said.
But Okeechobee trailed by a point with about three seconds left and didn’t have the ball. That’s when Cheyenne’s determination once again emerged at a critical moment. She stole an inbounds pass from a fellow Seminole on Moore Haven, drove to the basket and made a buzzer-beating layup to win the game for Okeechobee in Moore Haven’s ‘old barn,’ which on that night was packed because the girls game was sandwiched between the boys junior varsity and varsity games.
Cheyenne punched her ticket to Fort Myers when she signed this spring to play NCAA Division I softball for Florida Gulf Coast University. A new town, new team, new school means new goals, but some goals won’t change for Cheyenne because she knows all those eyes back home that look up to her will be following her college career.
“It’s been a really good four years and I’m going to miss [Okeechobee High],” she said. “Okeechobee is just one step. I’ve got to move on and move forward and set higher goals and bigger dreams and I’ve got to accomplish them because I know a lot of people and a lot of the younger kids are looking up to me. Even though they probably think I don’t know who they are, I know a lot of them.
“That’s my goal, to make this Tribe proud, to make Okeechobee proud, and to make these little kids have someone to look up to.”