Only a pandemic could stop the sports season for Deer Valley senior Sara Roskelley.
The track season, along with other spring sports, is on hold as state government, education officials and the Arizona Interscholastic Association determine when — of if — to resume school and then resume athletic competition.
Meanwhile, Roskelley has plenty of highlights to enjoy from her first three sports this school year. That’s right — three.
“I’m all over the place,” Roskelley said.
She ran cross country in her freshman and senior years, as badminton ends a couple weeks before the cross country final and the Skyhawks needed one more runner to qualify for state as a team those seasons.
Then it was on to basketball, where she was the second-leading scorer on a Skyhawks team that won its first region title in 12 years.
“Sara stepped up and was a leader. She was always on time to every practice, always gave maximum effort and always respectful. She plays four sports and is committed to every one of her teammates. She is the definition of athlete,” Deer Valley girls basketball coach M.J. Walker said.
That was hot on the heels of her fourth-place individual finish in the Division II state badminton tournament.
“The region championship in basketball was really great. And the improvement of badminton was great. I really worked to get to the second day of the badminton tournament,” Roskelley said.
Those two fall sports were late additions to her menu. Roskelley said she did not regularly compete in any of her four high school sports until seventh grade.
Growing up Sara mostly played softball and soccer in Page. Her father, Paul, accepted an assistant principal job at Deer Valley High and the family moved to Glendale when she was in the eighth grade.
“I didn’t start playing basketball until seventh grade. I planned on playing soccer in high school because I loved it so much. But then I liked basketball as much if not more. We moved when I was in eighth grade. I didn’t play soccer after that,” Roskelley said.
She prepared for cross country with older sister Jessica the summer before she started high school. Then Sara realized badminton was offered by her new high school.
“When I heard they had they had a badminton team and I said, ‘Aww sick. My dad played that in high school,” Roskelley said.
Skyhawks cross county and track and field coach Kevin Riegle has seen more of the breadth of Roskelley’s career as a longtime Deer Valley assistant in both sports before becoming the head track coach last spring and cross country coach last fall.
Riegle said she has been a great asset to the track team in the past four years.
“I feel like the summer between her sophomore and junior year is when she had a major breakthrough. She did some club track that summer, and that extra couple months of focus on her high jump made her a much more consistent jumper,” Riegle stated in an email. “She is so versatile, because she can hurdle too. I often find myself attempting to enter her in more than four events as I set up entries for our meets.”
In addition to four sports, Roskelley is competitive in more than four track and field events, competing in both hurdles races in addition to the high jump, long jump and triple jump.
She finished eighth in the Division II high jump as a junior and is looking to leap into the top five this season. Before the season was suspended, she provisionally qualified for state.
Roskelley jumped 5-1 during the March 6 Mountain Ridge Invite. That being her second meet, Roskelley was on the pace to challenge the school girls record of 5-5 — which she said was her main remaining goal.
“My coaches think I do have a shot as long as I keep improving like I have,” Roskelley said.
The four sports also do not seem to flow naturally. Most cross country athletes that transfer to track naturally run the distance events in the spring.
Basketball can often lead to volleyball careers and vice versa.
But Roskelley has noticed benefits, like the speed required to play badminton well often transfers to her track jumping events.
And Deer Valley has a history of welcoming multi-sport athletes in this age of sports specialization.
Riegle said athletic director Stacy Spencer encourages athletes to do multiple sports, and the group of coaches on campus that believe in this and it helps our school be more successful.
“You also have to have athletes who are committed to their sports. Sara did a great job managing both badminton and cross country in the fall. Coach Hosler and I both modified workouts/practices also to make this possible. Many days she would be at CC practice from 5:20-6 a.m. and then go to badminton from 6-7,” Riegle said. “I really needed Sara on my CC team this year. She didn’t run the past two seasons, but I had a really young team on the girls side and needed a strong leader. Having Sara on the team filled that void. Because she seemed so much older than or mostly freshman and sophomore team, I gave her the nickname ‘Grandma Roskelley.’”
Roskelley admitted she had virtually no free time in the fall, balancing four Advanced Placement classes, badminton and cross country practice in the morning and an afternoon job, plus the start of basketball practices as the fall sports neared the state tournament.
With one less AP class and the more gradual transition from basketball to track the spring semester has been easier, she said.
She entered the track season with 12 varsity letters and too many memories to count.
“I love all the different friend groups I was able to make and all the different coaches I learned from. And all the long trips,” Roskelley said.
Roskelley also witnessed the rebirth of the girls basketball at the school, as the Skyhawks improved from 12-14 in her first varsity season as a sophomore to 19-7 and a West Valley Region championship as a senior.
“She was a consistent offensive and defensive threat. She has a personality that others were drawn too and again, led by example. They are talented but she is experienced and she was always willing to help her teammates out. She is one of those kids that every coach wants on their team,” Walker said.
As she and Abigail Breland were the only seniors in Deer Valley’s regular rotation, her only wish is another season in this basketball program in the rise.
“You play with 10 or so girls all season. I wanted to see that end well. I wish I had one more year. They’re going to be amazing,” Roskelley said.
If the state track and field meet, not yet scheduled, is able to go on, Riegle said he believes Roskelley can make the podium in the Division II long jump. As he pointed out 5-6 won Division II in 2019 won but 5-2 got state runner up.
If she can hit a 5-3 or 5-4 on the first attempt or get 5-6, anything is possible, Riegle said. He also said Roskelley started her plyometrics workouts pretty hard in January to start preparing her for the high jump.
Her versatility on track may be the key to a college athletic career. But Deer Valley’s 2020 valedictorian is going to college for academics first.
Sara has accepted a full-tuition academic scholarship to Brigham Young University and will start class in the fall.
Her two older sisters and parents went to BYU. Sara Roskelley said she wants to walk on to the Cougars’ women’s basketball team and track team — as she will look into becoming a heptathlete.
“Sara has really developed as an athlete and a person over the past 4 years. I have seen a lot of growth not only as an athlete, but in her mental toughness,” Riegle said.