WENATCHEE — Thinking back on her first full-season running track at Washington State University, former Wenatchee Panther Skyler Walton said it was interesting.
She experienced some highs, like setting new PRs in the 60-meter (indoor) and 100-meter dash (outdoor) that put her on WSU’s all-time list in both events. For a three or four-week span, Walton ran like a spooked deer, consistently re-breaking her previous best in the 100-meter.
But then came the dual meet at UW. Through the first 30 meters, Walton was confident. It was her best start of the season, she later said, and she was on track to set another PR. But around the 50-meter mark, she felt a pinch in the back of her thigh.
“I knew immediately and just sat down,” Walton said. “It was frustrating because I had been doing so well, but I knew.”
Though not as bad as initially thought, Walton’s strained hamstring kept her from running competitively for three weeks and ultimately cost her a chance at coming back to run the 100-meter at the PAC-12 Championships in Los Angeles, which she had previously qualified for. Instead, Walton chose to compete with her teammates, running the second leg of the 4x100-meter relay.
“It was a tough decision,” Walton said. “It was one of those ‘team before myself’ kind of things and we had a better chance of qualifying for regionals in the relay.”
Unfortunately, Walton was not the only sprinter dealing with an injury. One of the super-seniors hurt her Achilles tendon before the meet and was unable to run.
“So it wasn’t the original four that ran in Los Angeles,” Walton said. “We weren’t up to par, to say the least, but we gave it our best shot.”
The 4x100-meter relay team — consisting of Mackenzie Fletcher, Walton, Jasneet Nijjar and Elise Unruh-Thomas — clocked a time of 46.95 and finished ninth, ending their season.
The COVID-related protocols were a pain, the testing was constant and it was difficult to adjust to college online while still training in Pullman, but despite all of that, and the injury, Walton said the year was an overall plus.
“It was more than we got the year before and even though we had to get tested once a week during the season and three times a week if we were traveling, we felt lucky enough to compete. Two days before we left for our spring break trip last year, everything shut down.”
Coming into this past season, Walton hadn’t run the 100-meter since her senior year of high school, which makes it even more remarkable that she was able to make the school’s all-time list for the event.
Walton said she didn’t do anything special in terms of training during quarantine. She worked on her core and ran a little, but didn’t work out constantly. She didn’t really expect much coming into the season. But something clicked.
“During the first indoor meet, boom, I PR,” Walton said. “From there on, I started to consistently PR and was hanging with girls that I couldn’t keep up with as a freshman. During the outdoor season, I set a new PR on the first race and just kept that up. At some point, I made the all-time list but I didn’t even realize it at the time. It wasn’t something I envisioned for myself so early, but it was cool and definitely a good feeling.”
Because the NCAA gave athletes an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic, Walton still has three years of remaining eligibility. So there's still plenty of time to qualify for the PAC-12 Championships and potentially top her all-time marks.
As one of the oldest sprinters on the team, Walton said she’s excited to step into that leadership role and finally get back to a regular school schedule. But right now, it’s time for her to relax and enjoy the summer.