St. C.’s Skukan to try out for football at Capital
Haylee Skukan wasn’t the primary placekicker for the St. Clairsville football team during last season’s march to the Division IV state championship game.
Heck, she would only get the chance to tee it up when the Red Devils were comfortably ahead.
But, according to head coach Brett McLean, she worked as hard as anyone on the team.
As a result, Skukan is a walk-on candidate for the Capital University, located in the Columbus suburb of Bexley, team this fall. The Crusaders compete in NCAA Division III and are members of the Ohio Athletic Conference.
“Honestly, we (the coaching staff) all had reservations when Haylee approached us about joining the team. Today, I can say I wouldn’t change the experience for anything,” McLean said. “She was a team player and worked hard at honing her kicking skills and competed for playing time.
“Other than dressing before and after games, we made no special arrangements for Haylee, nor did she ever expect any,” McLean continued. “She had the same commitment expectations as any other player in our program and she always was accountable and responsible to those expectations.”
Skukan, who also played on the girls’ soccer team, is excited about the opportunity.
“I really enjoyed my experience with football in high school,” she revealed. “I wanted to continue my career in college.
“My coaches at St. Clairsville are wonderful people,” Skukan continued. “Coach (Mike) Chops (Jacob) worked with me the most and he is such an inspirational person, but all of the coaches have been supportive of me throughout my career.
“I’m just blessed to have been surrounded by them all.”
One thing she does know is she’ll have to get her leg stronger.
“I have been working really hard and training to do the best I’m capable of,” she added. “I’m really eager to see how it all pays off.
“Right now, I’m hitting the weights to get stronger and, of course, I’m kicking a lot.”
So, what was it like to be the only female on the football team?
“It’s different,” she allowed. “For me as a female, I sometimes had to work twice as hard as the guys to keep up. Anything you work hard for is by no means easy if it’s important to you.
“At first my teammates were leery that I wanted to be a part of the team. After they saw I could do what they could do, outlooks changed. It was like I was their sister and over the past three years, they’ve looked out for me.
“I didn’t get treated any differently because of my gender,” she stressed. “I’ve made so many long lasting relationships with my teammates. Even though I’m a girl, it’s just become somewhat automatic and familiar for me to be on the football team, and I think the team felt that way, too.”
Skukan will remember homecoming this past season for the rest of her life.
No, she didn’t kick a game-winning field goal, but she did become one of a handful of female kickers across the nation who were also selected as their school’s homecoming queen.
“After I was crowned queen I went into the fieldhouse to share the news with everyone, but the true celebration didn’t start until after the game,” she admitted. “I knew I was going to get to kick in the second half, so I had to focus and get back into game mode.
“Everything happened so fast that night, but it was so special.”
Does this mean she’s giving up soccer?
“I had a lot of emails from college coaches for soccer, but I’m just pursuing what is best for me right now,” she said.
McLean likes her chances of making the team.
“I feel she has a great chance. She is as determined an individual as I have ever met,” he said. “Her ability as a kicker is far better than most outside our coaching staff and team even realize.
“She was a team member who practiced hard every day and we honored that by giving her opportunities to kick whenever possible.
Skukan plans on majoring in pre-med chemistry and becoming a physician’s assistant.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org