BALLSTON SPA — When Olivia Skylstad competes this upcoming week at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships in Lawrence, Kan., she expects the excitement of the event to help her do her best.
“But I’ll be a little bit nervous, too,” the 14-year-old said Friday, “because I’ve never been to it before.”
Luckily, she’s got backup.
Six other competitors from the Spa City Running Club — an organization consisting of approximately 50 youth athletes, mostly from Saratoga County — have also qualified to compete at the week-long championships . . . including younger sister Sarah Skylstad and younger brother Tyler Skylstad.
“It’s all of our first times going to it,” said Olivia Skylstad, whose sister is 12 years old and brother is 8.
The Skylstads and their club teammates qualified for the national championships by posting top-five finishes in their age groups at the Northeast Regional Junior Olympic Championships at Fitchburg University in Massachusetts earlier this month.
“That [competition] was really nerve-wracking,” Olivia Skylstad said. “There were a lot of people there and it was raining a lot.”
Olivia Skylstad, a rising high school freshman, qualified for the national championships in the 15-16 division in the 2000-meter steeplechase, 3,000-meter run and 400-meter hurdles. Sarah Skylstad, who will be a seventh-grader this September, qualified in the 11-12 discus throw. Tyler Skylstad, a soon-to-be third-grader, qualified in the 8-and-under turbo javelin and shot put. Each of the siblings attend Ballston Spa schools.
“I just want to try my hardest,” Tyler Skylstad said of the upcoming championships.
“And I’m happy we’re all going,” Sarah Skylstad said. “It would have been weird if just I went, or just my siblings went, because then I wouldn’t have seen them for a while there.”
Also from the club, Mayfield graduate Devante Marshall qualified in the 17-18 triple jump. Ballston Spa’s Faith DeMars will compete in the 2000-meter steeplechase, 3,000-meter run and 1,500-meter run in the 15-16 division. Albany Academy’s Ajai Mangal will compete in the 9-10 shot put. Shenendehowa’s Carly Ruisi qualified in the 11-12 discus throw.
The Spa City Running Club, one of several Capital Region track clubs sending athletes to the championships in Kansas, practices at Ballston Spa High School’s track.
“The school’s been nice enough to let us come out here a few times a week all summer,” said Kim Skylstad, the trio’s mother and one of the club’s coaches.
Members of the club will start their trek to Kansas Saturday morning. The championships run through next weekend, which could pose an issue for all the Skylstad siblings on the trip.
“Sometimes,” a giggling Sarah Skylstad said, “if we stay together too long, we might get into a few fights.”
The plan, though, is to enjoy every minute of the trip. Around the time spent competing, there are trips planned to water parks and pools. That everyone — including dad Travis Skylstad — gets to go makes it that much better for the Skylstad kids.
“This is more fun because our whole family gets to go,” Olivia Skylstad said. “This is going to be like a mini-vacation for us.”