Sports

In the Cleat Steps of Flathead Greats

Flathead senior Skyleigh Thompson is the latest Flathead Valley soccer star to ink a deal to play for the Griz

Jeff Thompson doesn’t see his daughter that often, despite her attending Flathead High School where he teaches business and coaches wrestling.

“She’s just so dang busy,” Jeff said. “But she’s so well rounded, and I think that’s going to help her be successful as an adult.”

Skyleigh Thompson just finished her fourth season playing soccer for the Bravettes, her third as team captain. She is also captain of the Flathead Valley United Soccer Club, president of the Flathead National Honor Society, Flathead’s student body president and is ranked first in her class with a perfect GPA.

“So dang busy” might be an understatement.

“I’ve definitely gotten better with time management because of everything I have on my plate,” Thompson said after signing of her National Letter of Intent last week to play soccer for the University of Montana. “I do my best to make sure I’m giving my all to athletics, and school of course, but it’s also important to get that time to relax and be around the people you enjoy.”

Skyleigh Thompson of the Flathead Bravettes chases down the ball in a game against Glacier Wolfpack at Legends Stadium in Kalispell on Sept. 15, 2020. Glacier won 1-0. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Thompson started playing soccer in grade school, following after her older sister Shayenn.

“As soon as I started playing, I fell in love with it,” Thompson said. “I love competition — it’s so exciting and fun to me — and soccer gives me so much adrenaline.”

Thompson comes from a competitive family — her sister plays soccer at the University of Providence, her mom ran track and cross country at Pacific Lutheran and her dad wrestled for the University of Minnesota.

In high school, Thompson branched out from soccer to also play basketball and run track, qualifying for the state track meet in the 300-meter hurdles and 4×100 relay.

During Thompson’s junior year, she downshifted from a three-sport athlete to a dual-sport athlete, dropping basketball in order to focus more on training for spring track. The extra training time was moot once track season was canceled.

“For that to be canceled, it took a couple of weeks for it to soak in and realize it was over,” her father said. “But then she would just go out to the soccer field, start kicking the ball around and work out with her sister Shay — a run in the morning, soccer in the afternoon.”

“The exercise endorphin high became the drug of choice to pull her out of the COVID funk, and that’s a pretty good option: get addicted to exercise and take time to focus on her goals,” he added.

Thompson did just that, refocusing on her goals, both those on and off the soccer field.

As student body president, Thompson is overseeing the student council’s focus on PMA — “positive mental attitude” — to help students through COVID. She’s also working on several projects at Flathead, including the winter food drive, the Brave Olympics and a motivation foundation.

“It definitely feels good to give back and help out a little,” Thompson said.

On the field, Thompson didn’t have the pressure of impressing college coaches hanging over her senior season and could instead soak in her last games.

“It’s definitely kind of glorious looking back at all the memories since I’ve been playing with these girls since freshman year,” Thompson said. “It’s bittersweet, knowing every game it’s inching towards the last time you’ll be playing with these girls.”

Skyleigh Thompson of Flathead slides in to steal a ball from Kenzie Williams of Glacier. Glacier High School beat Flathead High School 3-2 at Legends Stadium in Kalispell on Sept. 5, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A year ago, Thompson finished her junior season of soccer with the most goals (24) and assists (11) in all of Class AA, and was named the Western Conference player of the year, clinching her third straight all-state recognition. Shortly after the season ended, she made a verbal commitment to Griz head coach Chris Citowicki to play for the Grizzlies starting in 2021.

Thompson had attended soccer camps at UM, and the coaching and team dynamic there stuck out to her. She also stuck in the mind of Citowicki, standing out for her penchant for finding the back of the net.

“Any window that was open, she would shoot and score. Every single time. You can’t ignore that,” Citowicki said in a press release about Thompson’s signing. “You have to take a player like that because goal-scoring is so hard to do and she just naturally does it.”

Even though she committed last year, the act of signing on the line last week felt appropriately official to Thompson.

“A commitment is super big, but once you sign you know it’s finally getting close to happening,” she said. “It feels good to finally move in that direction.”

Next fall, Thompson will be one of eight newcomers joining a team of Grizzlies that includes Columbia Falls graduate Josie Windauer. Even with a slew of incoming talent, and a large returning roster, Citowicki thinks Thompson will hit the turf ready to make waves.

“When you give her a small window to shoot, she takes it and hardly ever misses,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that Skye will score goals and be a huge threat in our conference.”

The Griz won the 2019 regular season Big Sky conference title, and was picked first in the preseason coach’s poll before the 2020 season was canceled. The conference recently announced a nine-game spring season, and Thompson will be following along closely to cheer on her future teammates.

“I’m really looking forward to improving and playing with people at a high level,” Thompson said. “[The team’s] aspect of hard work and family, it’s unlike anything else that I’ve seen.”

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