IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Caroline Skinner’s affinity for math came in handy in a lacrosse game against Hinsdale Central this past spring.
The Lake Forest High School middie — a senior, beginning this fall — had to have a firm grasp of geometry and a backwards-and-forwards understanding of the Pythagorean theorem to pull off what she did on April 28.
Sprinting from behind the Red Devils’ cage to control a rebound, the 5-foot-6 Skinner flicked a no-look backhand shovel shot past HC goalie Kelsie Chisholm. The angle at which the third-year varsity member used to execute the tally might be scrutinized at a convention for mathematicians one day.
Or at a conference for magicians.
“Sick,” Scouts defender and 2017 graduate Kat Ragusa says of the goal that lifted the spirit of Lake Forest’s squad and left Chisholm — an Illinois High School Women’s Lacrosse Association (IHSWLA) all-stater — with a mixed look of disbelief and awe.
“Caroline,” she adds, “is capable of doing amazing things on a lacrosse field.”
Hinsdale Central, alas, won the game, and Chisholm made sure to share her take on the memorable goal with Skinner.
“After the game she told me, ‘That goal was cool,’ ” says Skinner, a junior co-captain who earned IHSWLA all-state honors (Honorable Mention) after finishing with approximately 20 goals and 20 assists for the Scouts (16-5), which lost a rematch with Hinsdale Central in an Elite Eight (supersectional) game in May.
“Caroline’s goal in that game changed the entire demeanor of our team,” Scouts coach Cat Catanzaro says. “She jumped up, looked for the teammates who helped make that goal happen and then ran toward them. She is never about herself; she’s always about the team. Selfless.
“Caroline was,” the coach adds, “our emotional leader all season.”
What Caroline Skinner is in the winter, spring, summer and fall: an academic ace. As an eighth-grader at Deer Path Middle School in 2013, she and about 12 classmates hopped on a bus and took an advanced math class at Lake Forest High School during first period each morning. She is scheduled to take multivariable calculus at LFHS this fall.
There isn’t a higher math class at LFHS.
“I like school,” Skinner says simply and sincerely.
But Skinner loves engineering, specifically chemical and biomedical. The two-sport athlete (also basketball) returned home from a weeklong engineering camp held at the University of Illinois in Champion on June 17. It was dubbed “Explore Your Options”. Campers toured the labs used by only graduate students, among a wealth of other enlightening activities at the Big Ten school.
“Fun week,” says Skinner, who graded the overall campus experience a ‘9’ on a scale of 1-10, with ‘10’ representing the highest mark. “We attended two, sometimes three, lectures per day, and a lot of what we did was hands-on. Prosthetic arms — we made them. Real cool. And I really enjoyed the nuclear [component] of the camp; we got to see a nuclear reactor imported from Germany.”
When she’s not wowing teachers or opposing lacrosse goalies, Skinner is usually volunteering, with Bernie’s Book Bank in Lake Bluff emerging as the regular landing spot for that chapter in her life. This summer she trains volunteers there and works in the back of the book bank’s processing center. Most of the 200 volunteer hours she had accrued in the 2016-17 academic year were spent at Bernie’s.
That commitment netted her a Presidential Gold Service Award.
Three of Skinner’s cousins committed significant time to playing field hockey. Skinner felt some pressure to pursue that fall sport, but she stuck with her interests in lax and hoops at the start of her high school years.
Friends from her basketball feeder program convinced her to try her hand at lacrosse in the fifth grade, and that nudge paved the way for Skinner to sign up for a spot on an Illinois Girls Lacrosse Association (IGLA) team. Each of her four IGLA teams finished with an undefeated regular-season record.
Skinner trains with Lakeshore Lacrosse members these days. Skinner’s team is scheduled to compete at tournaments this summer in Rockford and Richmond, Virginia.
“I’m super competitive,” admits Skinner, who credits her brother — Duke University sophomore-to-be and political science major Jack Skinner — for developing her love for battles in sports; they played football in the back yard and engaged in one-on-one contests in basketball.
She practiced cradling a lacrosse ball all by herself — sometimes inside the Skinner house. (Lamps, she notes, survived).
“Jack loved to compete, too, but he was calm as a competitor,” says Skinner, whose grandfather, avid LFHS girls lacrosse supporter Sam Skinner, served President George H. W. Bush as United States Secretary of Transportation from 1989-91. “I think I stay calm under pressure because Jack did. Academics and athletics were both important to my brother in high school, and that’s something I noticed.
“That type of devotion to both is something I still carry with me.”
One of Skinner’s first lacrosse role models at the prep level was Katie Karahalios, a 2015 LFHS graduate and a junior-to-be lacrosse player at the University of Southern California. Karahalios was a Scouts senior when Skinner was a Scouts freshman.
None other than biomedical engineering.
“I keep in touch with her,” Skinner says of the US Lacrosse All-American in 2015. “I text her questions about engineering. She was very welcoming to me and to my teammates my freshman year. That meant a lot.
“Katie,” she adds, “was never bossy on a lacrosse field, and she always worked hard. She set such a great example. Katie never talked smack when she played; she let her game on the field speak for her.”
Skinner spoke to the team before it exited a bus for a big game against New Trier this past spring. She had sensed tension in the air, coupled with anxiety.
“Caroline calmed all of us down on that day,” recalls Ragusa, the senior captain in ’17. “She basically told us, ‘Guys, don’t worry; we’re a really good team.’ She knew what to say and when to say it. On the field she’s extremely strategic, constantly aware of where she needs to be and what she needs to do in order for the team to be successful.
“A great conductor,” she adds.
Ragusa and Skinner go way back. Ragusa was a first-grader when she first met Skinner, then a kindergartner.
“What do I remember about her?” Ragusa says. “I remember a girl with the brightest red hair and the brightest smile. Jolly — she was jolly.
“Like she is now,” she adds.
Notable: Lake Forest High School middie and Arizona State University recruit Kara Antonucci, who will be a senior in the fall, earned IHSWLA all-state first-team honors. Caroline Skinner, Grace Geraghty and Audrey Kaus — all middies, all members of the Class of 2018 — were IHSWLA all-state honorable mention picks. Skinner and Geraghty, a Wofford (S.C.) College recruit, served as junior captains during the Scouts’ 16-5 season in ’17. … Scouts girls lacrosse coach Cat Catanzaro was named IHSWLA Coach of the Year.