Shults leaps for success in final year
A visit into Reno to see a physical therapist opened another door for opportunity.
Brynlee Shults frequented Todd’s Body Shop after an injury kept her off the track early last season before coming back to take third in the state meet. Todd’s Body Shop, as fate would have it, sits next door to Functional Athletic Sports Training (FAST), where ex-Greenwave and Olympian Aarik Wilson trains and helps athletes reach their goals. Todd Eekhoff got a hold of Wilson and the two arranged a meeting with Shults and Palmer.
“That was the first time her and I got a chance to plan a way to get some work in,” Wilson recalled. “Brynlee is a very competitive and extremely determined young lady.”
Shults’ best season came last year when she notched personal bests in both the long and triple jumps. She leaped 15 feet, 10.5 inches in the long jump and recorded a 34-0.75 in the triple jump.
The trips to Reno continued during the offseason to see both Eekhoff and Wilson. Between the two, Shults has become stronger, her triple-jump technique is better and now she’s ready to end her senior season on top.
“I’m really excited for what I will do in triple jump this season because of the extra training,” Shults said. “I feel mentally stronger and more confident in my abilities. I know that I will achieve some personal records this year due to the extra work.”
LINED UP FOR SUCCESS
Three steps never meant so much for Shults.
Last May after qualifying for the triple jump in the state meet, Shults wanted to emulate one of her role models and make a name for herself on the runway. While watching her teammate, then-senior Whitney Skabelund, win her second state title, Shults became part of the headline as well. She took home the bronze after rebounding from an early-season injury.
“She kind of had a history of struggling at regionals but when the time came, she just buckled down and got it done,” said Skabelund, who’s now jumping at Utah State. “I think once she realized she could really shoot for a medal at state, she was really determined.”
The competitiveness between the two helped Shults not only break through at the regional meet in Carson last year, but it gave the senior jumper a confidence boost.
“Watching her medal at state felt better than any accomplishment I have ever achieved for myself because even though I had been able to see just how amazing Bryn is, everybody else got to see it too,” Skabelund added.
This year, though, the stakes are higher for Shults as she returns to the runway and track for the final time as a Greenwave. She wants nothing more than to medal in both the long and triple jumps and qualify in the 4×100-meter and 4×200 relays at state. The 4×400 relay team is also eying a school record that Shults hopes to break this year.
“I just need to continue working hard and having fun,” Shults said. “My best jumps have always been when I have an upbeat, worry-free mentality due to the fun I am having while competing. For our relay teams, we will need to encourage and push each other every practice, and give our hearts to each other every meet.”
Her coach has faith in his senior jumper after she put in the hours during offseason workouts to become stronger. Shults, who even won the javelin event during last summer’s AAU West Coast National Championships, competes along with more than 1,000 athletes on Saturday in the annual Elks Invitational at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex.
“She understands a lot better than before. She’s matured a lot and focused on what she wants to do,” Fallon girls coach Paul Orong said of Shults. “We’re hoping she has a heck of a year. She’s understanding what jumping’s all about now. She’s worked hard all of the offseason and has gotten better. I expect great things from her.”
FIGHTING FOR A CAUSE
It wasn’t needed but extra motivation came across Shults’ path at an unexpected time.
Shults’ mother, Danica Palmer, was diagnosed with breast cancer but that hasn’t prevented Palmer from being her daughter’s biggest fan and supporter.
“She has never let her battle with breast cancer get in the way of being the most supportive mother for me and my sister,” Shults said. “She is the reason I am who I am today, and I am thankful for that.”
And it’s her family, including 15-year-old sister Ashlynn Shults, that has been her strength during this athletic and academic journey at Fallon. From the many car rides to Reno for training to her mother listening to the constant “track talks,” Shults has been able to stay the course in the classroom and on the field. It even included a slight detour in the fall when Shults tried out tennis because of the “cute uniforms” and surprised herself when she and her doubles partner qualified for state.
“My family would take gold if supporting me at track meets and tennis matches was an Olympic sport,” Shults said. “Both sports are so incredibly fun to compete in, but can be equally as boring to spectate. My family has been and continues to be the biggest supporters of my athletic dreams, and I endlessly appreciate them for that.”
It’s only fitting that Shults would want to pursue a career in the medical field.
And she has the grades and academic honors to prove that she’s ready to make a difference in people’s lives off the track and out of the jumping pits. Shults is currently the president of the Fallon chapter of National Honor Society and took third in medical reading and qualified for the HOSA-Future Health Professionals of America National Leadership Conference. She’s also vice president for the student body and HOSA.
“I am extremely passionate about the medical field and am so excited to begin my career path toward becoming an oncologist,” said Shults, who has been awarded the all-state academic awards in basketball, track and field, and cross country. “I am also excited to get out into the world, discover new things and meet other people as excited for their future medical careers as I am.”
A FUTURE IN MEDICINE
While not decided which school will be the next adventure, Shults has narrowed the decision down to Southern Utah and Weber State.
A winner of the Southern Utah University four-year Founder’s Scholarship, Shults wants to seek a degree in biology or pre-medicine and follow up with medical school at the University of Utah in becoming an oncologist.
“Both universities have reputable undergraduate medical programs that will me get into medical school and a positive college atmosphere,” Shults said. “I was drawn to the idea of attending college in Utah because I have extended family that lives there, and my mother and sister travel to the state often, so I hopefully will not be as homesick my first year or two. My best friend is also going to college in Utah next year, so it will be nice to be closer to her as well.”
And Shults plans on competing for the track and field team, just like her mentor, Skabelund.
“I want to compete in as many track meets as I can as a freshman, and beat all of my high school personal records,” said Shults, who wants to maintain a 3.8 grade-point average in college. “Overall, my goal for my entire freshman year of college is to find and maintain a healthy balance between academics, athletics and extracurriculars in order to have the most fun and stress-free first year of college as possible.”
With endless possibilities in both track and field and in the classroom, Shults, though, admits she’s nervous leaving her family, in particular, her mother. The two continue to grow closer each day but being a state away will be a small challenge – but simple to overcome with Facetime.
“She has always been my shoulder to cry on and my biggest supporter,” Shults said. “It’ll be different to not have her close by for the new experiences that come with college.”
When the dirt settles in the pit and the baton is exchanged for the final time, Shults wants to be remembered for more than what she did as a student-athlete.
From her accomplishments on the tennis court, helping Fallon’s basketball team win state last year and medaling at the state track meet, Shults wants to leave an impression, another blueprint for others to follow.
After all, it’s always been more than sports for Shults during her time on campus.
“I want to leave a legacy behind of being a person of good character,” Shults said. “I want my peers to remember me as a good friend, my teachers as hard working and my teammates as a positive leader. I want to be mainly remembered in the Fallon community as an ambitious and kind person with a positive attitude.”