West High senior Gabby SkopecBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Gabby Skopec is a runner through and through.
Skopec comes from a family of runners and has developed the runner’s philosophy of doing things as quickly as possible.
For the West High senior that mindset applies to more than just cross country races, it also includes moving past disappointment, and doing so fast as possible.
The disappointment for Skopec came at the state cross country meet last fall when a heel injury contributed to a 49th place finish.
Skopec will try to improve on that last year’s discouraging finish on Saturday in her fourth trip to the Class 4A state cross country meet at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
But as far as moving past the injury-riddled showing of a year ago, Skopec did that nearly a year ago.
“I’m really looking forward to it but I’m not looking forward to it any more because of what happened last year,” Skopec said. “Nobody cares about that, you just have to get over it and move on.”
Skopec has certainly showed throughout the season she’s past her injury and any lingering disappointment from the state meet.
She enters the state meet ranked second in the Class 4A individual rankings behind only Johnston junior Jessica McKee.
Skopec won the both the MVC super meet and the Valley Division meet on her way to earning MVC athlete of the year honors.
She won followed that up by winning last week’s state qualifying meet by 14 seconds over teammate and fourth-ranked Bailey Nock.
“Over the last five meets she has won every meet and I’ve just seen someone who is having their confidence develop,” West High coach Mike Parker said. “Sometimes we have runners that run a little bit scared throughout the race just waiting for someone to come and Gabby doesn’t run that way she is trying to see how far ahead she can get and that’s something that I think has just developed over the last four or five meets.”
The 49th place finish for Skopec at state last year is actually her best finish in three trips to state.
She finished 50th as a freshman and was 51st as a sophomore.
On Saturday Skopec gets a final shot to show what she can do completely healthy.
“I think Gabby has a little bit of a bitter taste in her mouth from state last year,” Parker said. “I’m glad she was able to run but she was for a lack of a better term, running on one leg and we all knew it. She’s maybe got just a little bit of an edge which I think helps.”
A strong performance by Skopec could help push West High back onto the awards balcony for the first time since 2009.
West High enters a competitive 4A field ranked sixth behind top-ranked Johnston, Cedar Falls, City High, Dubuque Hempstead and Ankeny Centennial.
The Little Hawks are coming off a state qualifying meet win and placed fourth at state a year ago, one point in front of West High.
City High is led by the duo of fifth-ranked Mary Arch and No. 8 Anna Lindower.
Arch is after her second consecutive state medal after placing ninth a year ago as a junior.
For Skopec a state medal would be her first and she has plans to make it a gold medal while adding a team medal to the list.
Skopec and Nock have finished first and second at each of their last three meets.
Those performances give Skopec confidence heading into the final race of her prep career but in typical runner fashion she is only looking forward.
“It raises my confidence I guess but it isn’t something that I think about a lot,” Skopec said of her recent winning streak. “Nobody cares about your past success you just have to focus on the meet ahead of you.”