Before every attempt that Sky Schuller makes in the pole vault, the Coppell freshman stands by the mark on the piece of tape that she had placed on the runway, pictures herself clearing the bar, adjusts her hands on the pole, and takes a few deep breaths.
Then, she takes a step or two back with pole in hands and runs, lowers the bar to within a few inches of the adjacent landing bag and launches herself into the air, twisting and turning like her younger days as a gymnast when she was a top performer in the vault.
The ascent can be high but Schuller is not afraid of heights. She knows that the reward is potentially a place in the school record books. She accomplished that feat in late February on her home track when she obliterated the old mark by exactly 1 foot after she recorded a jump of 13 feet at the Coppell Relays.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I could tell by the way that I was warming up and clearing lower height that it could be the day that I could PR, and I had just come from breaking the (school) record in the 100 (-meter) hurdle record. So, I had a lot of adrenaline, and that helped me to clear the 13-foot bar. That was an awesome meet.”
Schuller asserted herself as one of the top two high school female pole vaulters in the state on that day when that mark tied her with Rockwall junior Olivia Cade, who also cleared 13-0.
The adrenaline that Schuller felt at that moment came a few minutes after she bested another school record – a time of 14.56 seconds in the 100 hurdles, which was more than two-tenths of a second faster than the previous-best time for a Coppell Cowgirl (14.8). That was just the start of good things to come for her in the hurdles as she shaved more than four-tenths of a second off that time during the team’s next meet at The Colony (14.1).
“That was really cool, because I knew that my coach (Chessna Davis) was really proud of me, because she knew that I could break the record this season,” Schuller said. “I thought I had a slim chance but didn’t expect to make so much improvement, and I worked really hard during the season to PR.”
That’s in addition to her performances in the high jump, where she cleared a height of 5-7 in the summer leading up to her freshman season.
“[Schuller’s] a machine,” said Nick Benton, Coppell girls track and field coach. “I think it would have been a really big year for her, put her on the map, for sure.”
The root of Schuller’s success can be traced back to as young as 2 years old when she first started in gymnastics. Her best events were the floor exercise and the vault. She was driven to succeed and ascended all the way up to one of the top competition divisions at Texas Dream Gymnastics in Coppell.
Yet, for as well as Schuler did in gymnastics, it felt like a full-time job to her. There were many weeks where she trained for an average of 25 hours. She kept at it until age 10, but the packed training schedule began to wear on her.
“I felt like it was taking up my whole life because I was training 25 hours a week, and I really didn’t go outside that much, because I was tired and wanted to rest,” she said.
Sky’s mom, Stephanie, then suggested that she should give track and field a try.
Schuller worked hard at her new sport and by the time she was 13, she was clearing 10 feet in the pole vault. That earned her first place in the nation in the 13-year-old division at the 2018 AAU National Championship in Iowa. She’s been a top performer at nationals in multiple events. She also won the high jump and pentathlon and took fourth in the 100-meter hurdles that year. In 2019, she earned gold medals in the pentathlon and high jump and was runner-up in the pole vault.
When she was in the seventh grade, she was one of only a few middle school students in Coppell who trained with CHS high school pole vault coach Don Kemp.
“He’s helped me to grow as an athlete,” Schuller said of Kemp. “I feel like I have a strong bond with him, and he’s an amazing coach.”
Schuller’s rise to prominence has earned her a tie for the fifth-best mark in the nation for all female high school pole vaulters in 2020, and she isn’t stopping there. She has lofty expectations. But, she’s also keeping herself grounded. That’s the same attitude that she carries in the heptathlon, which she is now old enough to compete in.
“My goal for my sophomore year is to clear 14 feet in the pole vault,” she said. “My goal by the end of my high school career is to jump 15 feet and break the national record. From there, I want to compete in college. I’m thinking about UT-Austin. Then I’ll try for the Olympics. Going for that would be really cool.”
The only thing that has slowed down Schuller in 2020 has been the cancellation of the last half of the spring track and field season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was super disappointed because my season was going much better than I expected, and I wasn’t expected to qualify for state as a freshman,” she said. “But, because I made such big improvements in the pole vault, I had a really good chance of going, and even winning.”
Although Schuller will have to wait for another year to compete for a state title, she isn’t letting the pandemic prevent her from laying the groundwork for the 2021 season. She’s been working out just about every day since quarantine began in March. Two weeks from now, she will travel to Port Aransas for a meet with only pole vaulters.
“It’s a pretty big meet, and I’m in the open female division, which means that I’m not going just against high schoolers,” she said. “My PR is high enough that I can compete against college athletes and professionals.”
Sky is the daughter of Gerrit and Stephanie Schuller.