Skabelund takes to pits, hurdles
She is the lone wolf.
Her aim is to feast on opposing jumpers today and Saturday at the Division I-A state track and field meet at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas.
Today’s meet begins at 3 p.m. and Saturday’s action starts at 8 a.m.
But for Whitney Skabelund, the road to her third consecutive state meet wasn’t so smooth.
The Fallon sophomore transferred from New Mexico after her father, Hoyt Skabelund, was named CEO of Banner Churchill Community Hospital last year.
His daughter, however, found success right away on the volleyball court for the Greenwave varsity team. Since the fall, though, her focus has been in the jumping pits and hurdles for the Lady Wave.
Whitney Skabelund qualified for state meet in the triple jump, long jump and 300-meter hurdles after winning the jumping events and taking fourth in the hurdles at last weekend’s Northern Division I-A regional meet in Fernley.
She is the only Lady Wave athlete to qualify for state this year.
“She’s capable of winning two events,” Fallon girls coach Paul Orong said. “She is in the position to let one go. I expect her to do real well.”
Although only a sophomore, Skabelund qualified for the New Mexico high school state meet as an eighth grader. She did not compete as she broke her hip on her state-qualifying jump.
In her first days with girls coach and jumping guru Paul Orong, Skabelund’s form, or lack thereof, was shredded.
Orong’s task was to build his newest prize from the ground up. He said it takes about one year to get the technique down, all while building leg strength and taking time away to practice other disciplines.
Skabelund, though, is a hard worker and has a thirst for knowledge. She quickly goobled up Orong’s instructions, although it was a bumpy path.
Admittedly, Orong and Skabelund said frustration grew during the season as she was fretting over lower marks. In New Mexico, her longest triple jump was over 34 feet.
“When she first came, we had to teach her all over,” Orong said. “She’s a great kid to coach. One of the most coachable kids I’ve ever had.”
In her first six weeks or so of competing for Fallon, Skabelund was at least 2-3 feet shorter. But soon came a “light bulb” moment for the rising star.
Competing at the Fallon’s final home meet and Big George Invitational at Douglas High School in the same week, Skabelund ripped off her best jump of the season at 34-2 and followed with a 33-3.5.
“It just kind of clicked in the jumping events,” she said. “Huge shout-out to my coaches for having so much patience with me.”
Since then, Skabelund has hovered around the 34-foot mark and is peaking at the right time.
Much as her triple jump has come along, it has been the same process in the long jump. Skabelund attributes her rise, and that of her youthful teammates, to Orong and an obsessive-like routine in practice of repetition.
“When I came in, I did not have form, I did not have technique and had no idea what they (the coaches) were telling me,” Skabelund said. “They definitely broke me down and built me back up.”
But the road to the top of the podium will be a challenge, as expected at a state meet. In Skabelund’s way in the triple jump are Boulder City’s Alexis Fenyves, who has the best mark in the DI-A this season at 37-2. Also standing in the way are Faith Lutheran’s Haley Vinson, ranked No. 2 (36-2) and Sunrise Mountain’s Nina Carpenter at No. 3 (34-7).
Skabelund, ranked No. 4, though, knows all it takes is one jump. The thought works both ways, for Skabelund and the southern trio, but a bad by one or all three leaves the door open for the Fallon sophomore.
The long jump, though, may be a tougher hill to climb as Skabelund ranks eighth with a season-best distance of 16-7.75. The No. 1 jumper is Faith Lutheran’s Cayla Nikodemus, who has a DI-A best leap of 17-5 followed by Carpenter at 17-4.25.
“I haven’t really paid too much attention to the other girls,” Skabelund said. “I’m excited for triple jump. I’m thankful for the experience I’ve had and going in for a PR.”