Three years ago before coming to Fallon, all-around track athlete and volleyball player Whitney Skabelund made her mark as a young athlete in a part of New Mexico that skirted tornado country.
The experience of competing in New Mexico helped her mature and develop as one of the Nevada’s best female athletes in track and field during the spring season. Only a junior last season, Skabelund missed a month because of injury, but her recovery was amazing.
Skabelund leaped 37 feet, 6.25 inches to win the triple jump by almost 2 feet in the Division I-A state championship meet at Carson High School. The Fallon junior then followed with a jump of 16-11.75 to win the long jump, thus capturing the only gold medals for the weekend. According to her coaches, Skabelund was the only jumper to win both the long and triple from any of the four athletic divisions and is Fallon’s first high school female athlete to win both jumping events since Rachel Sorensen performed the same feat in the 1990s.
Because of her ability in track and field and also in the classroom, Skabelund signed a letter of intent Wednesday to attend Utah State University in Logan beginning in the fall. She feels as though competing for USU is a good fit … and also a homecoming of sorts … since her parents both attended the university.
Skabelund said she appreciates the help from track coaches Matt Reibsamen and Paul Orong.
“I toured a few schools in Utah and knew the area where I wanted to go,” she said. “Utah State is where I want to go, and it feels right.”
Her jumping caught USU coaches’ attention, but she said the coaches want her to compete in more events.
“They want me to jump,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of different events, but I’m pretty average with them. They also want me to be a heptathlete in college.”
Skabelund said she would focus on her conditioning during track this spring and compete in as many events as possible.
The heptagon consists of seven events: 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin throw and 800 meters.
“I believe Whitney is multi-talented, and if they teach her the techniques, she will pick those up fairly quickly,” Reibsamen said.
He said Skabelund has not spent a lot of time pole vaulting, but she has established some height so far.
“She has so much more she can do, and with her skill set, she can do whatever,” Reibsamen added.
The Fallon senior had also looked at Brigham Young University and Weber State University as well as programs in Idaho and East Coast universities.
“I wasn’t looking to go that far,” she said, grinning.
By going to USU, she said her parents will not be that far away to see some of her meets.
Jumping coach Paul Orong, who has coached state winners and an Olympian triple jumper, considers Skabelund one of his top athletes — male or female — in 20 years of coaching.
“She doesn’t know how good she could be and would be,” Orong said.
Orong, though, said he wasn’t surprised Skabelund chose track over volleyball although she was a first-team all-region and all-state.
Carmen Skabelund, who was a track star in her own right, said she has seen her daughter progress and noted how much Whitney loves to run. Both she and her husband, Hoyt Skabelund, knew Whitney had a special talent in jumping and was able to develop it last season.
“I always knew she was going to be a jumper ... either you have it or don’t,” Carmen Skabelund said.
Hoyt Skabelund added he feels the best jump coaches are in Fallon … if not in all of the United States.