Leaping to the podium
Going into the last meet of the season, a pair of jumpers still had something left to prove.
There was the two-time state champ ready to defend her titles. There was the junior who still hadn’t reached her potential this season. And it all came together for Whitney Skabelund and Brynlee Shults.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I hold myself to higher standards,” Skabelund, a senior, said. “In the end, it’s just for fun and it’s not all about winning.”
Skabelund, who will be jumping for Utah State next year, successfully defended her long and triple jump titles and took third in the 100-meter hurdles, while Shults placed third in the triple to medal as Fallon placed 10th overall with only two athletes at the 3A state meet at Las Vegas’ Foothill High School Saturday. Truckee won the girls division.
“The north was so outnumbered that it was an incredible display of northern might when we took first, second and third in both the long and triple,” Skabelund said. “It was awesome because all of these northern jumpers are girls that I have had the opportunity to train with over the summer on our track club team. It made standing on the podium so much sweeter to know that the people on my right and left were friends.”
Skabelund didn’t match her season or career bests in the jumps, leaping 35 feet, 6.25 inches in the triple and 17-3.75 in the long, but she did break her own record in the hurdles. She ran the race in 15.45 seconds.
“What can you say — she grinded through it and did what she needed to win,” Fallon girls coach Paul Orong said of Skabelund.
Shults saved her best for last with a 34-0.75 effort in the triple after notching a personal best the weekend before at the regional meet.
“I was really satisfied because I was ranked fourth,” Shults said. “There was a third-place tie with two other girls and I out-jumped them.”
For Shults, she’s been teetering on this platform all season and the junior jumper picked the right time to shine.
“I was more nervous at regional than state,” she added. “I felt really confident with myself and my jumping abilities. I just felt confident.”
Orong was pleased with Shults’ focus and determination to give Fallon two top-three finishers.
“She jumped really well. I’m proud of her for being very, very focus and doing what she needed to,” he said.
Skabelund, too, was happy to have her friend and teammate standing with her on the podium. That moment brought everything full circle when the pair met three years ago.
“Brynlee was one of the first people that I got to know in the track and field program,” Skabelund said. “Seeing Bryn come so far this season, watching her overcome her injuries and struggles, and then seeing her hit a huge PR (personal record) at regionals and then another at state was honestly my favorite moment of the season. Bryn is my sister and I am so thankful to have had her by my side for three years, pushing me every day to become a better person both on and off the field.”
For the boys, which finished 13th as Sunrise Mountain won the division, Fallon had a tough day on Friday but recovery was the theme on Saturday.
“That ended up being a bit of a theme for the boys over the weekend,” Fallon boys coach Steve Heck said. “We had a tough first day but came back stronger on Saturday.”
The 4×100 relay team had exchange problems in Friday’s race but the same group rebounded on Saturday to break the 4×200 school record for the second time this month. Senior T.J. Mauga had a rough go in the shot put to finish eighth on Friday but he came back with a third-place performance in the discus.
Juniors Drake Copley and Broder Thurston, and sophomores Reid Clyburn and Colton Peterson ran the 4×200 race in 1:31.38 to take fifth after posting a 45.02 in the 4×100 to finish seventh.
“(Friday) was kind of a rough day for us but we were able to come back and break the school record,” Thurston said. “It’s nice to be able to prove to everyone that we’re still the No. 1 team in the north.”
Thurston added that the team’s youthfulness may have played a factor in the 4×100 race, facing the nerves of competing on the highest stage. But Fallon rebounded and will be back next year as the team returns for another chapter.
“I think half of the team being young as we are, the nerves got to us at state. There was nothing we could do about it,” Thurston said. “I was surprised, really, that we broke the record again. I’m disappointed we don’t have a medal.”
Peterson also posted sixth-place finishes in the 100 in 11.33, a personal best, and in the 200 in 23.07, while Thurston broke his record in the 200 at 23.15 and finish a spot ahead of his ranking.
“The boys were really disappointed but they did not let it bring them down on Saturday,” Heck said of his relay team. “They showed their competitive character by coming back on Saturday in the 4×200 with perfect hand-offs and bettering their school record. They ran a tremendous race but ended up in fifth place, which shows you how fast they are down south. My hat is off to those boys for overcoming their disappointment and performing so well on Saturday.”
Clyburn broke his record in the 300 hurdles, finishing in 41.15 for fifth.
“It was a very fast field, but he was the only underclassman in the race, so he has a great future ahead of him,” Heck said of Clyburn.
Mauga threw for 145-11 in the discus and 39-2.75 in the shot put to end his track career. He’ll play football at Fresno State this fall.
“T.J. had an off day in the shot which was unfortunate, but he showed his competitiveness by coming back,” Heck said.
Sophomore Bryan Duenas finished sixth in the long jump at 18-5 and eighth in the triple at 38-7.75.
“He finished where he was supposed to in the triple jump on Friday but took advantage of the situation and moved up to sixth on Saturday,” Heck said.