Smiling on Skates

Savanna Winiecki, Staff Writer

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  • While Sophie Pearson skates across ice, she achieves a Beillman.

  • Sophie Pearson sticks her landing position, as she soars across the ice.

  • Sophie Pearson flashes a smile, as she practices her skating at Glacier Ice Arena.

  • Sophie Pearson performs one of her favorite moves called the double flip, during her 3 hour practice on ice.

  • As Sophie Pearson glides on ice, she executes a move called the Spiral.

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Skate after skate. Turn after turn. Leap after leap. Sophia Pearson glides her way to success through determination, preservation and ambition.

Starting Off Young

Already as a toddler, ice skating became a part of Pearson’s life. She picked up skating when her older brother began playing hockey at the age of 3. When he quit, Pearson quit skating. However, a few years later when, she was around 6, her mother asked her if she would like to pursue ice skating again. Pearson accepted.

“It was so much fun. For me, the challenge was fun and just being on the ice was fun. I always enjoyed learning new things, like having to fall and get up and figure out what I did wrong,” Pearson said.

Even at such a young age, there was no doubt in her mind she was meant to skate and would continue to do so for the rest of her life. Her mother still has pictures Pearson drew of herself skating on the rink.

“It’s funny to look back and realize her deep passion for ice skating at such an early age,” said Kristina Pearson, Sophia’s mom, over email.

High Commitment, High Payoff

Ten years later, she’s still on the ice competing. Pearson has a special school schedule, by opting out of lunch and a study hall, allowing her school day to end after fifth period every day Although, her day isn’t even close to being over. She has training from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. six days a week. She spends this time skating and training through ballet, stretching and flexibility classes, and workouts. She trains at Glacier Ice Arena with a group of her closest friends and Chris Howarth, her coach.

“[Howarth] always keeps me positive. He keeps me going. I think he’s had a huge impact on my life, more than just skating. He has created a better person in me and he always makes sure that I’m on track, that everything is alright,” Person said. “I think he’s made me pursue my goals in ways that without him I don’t think I would be able to.”

Howarth has played a huge role in Pearson’s life, on and off the ice, for the past 10 years.

Howarth comments on his relationship with Sophia over email, “I try to be strong and supportive to her as I have the utmost respect for her work ethic and appreciate all that she has achieved so far and look forward to her future achievements.”

Pearson’s primary motivation to continue skating is the pure happiness it brings her. She struggled to find words on how to describe the feeling of achievement and accomplishment.

“[Ice skating] means everything to me,” Pearson said. “I feel like skating has kind of created the person I am and it’s brought me to where I am. It’s helped me realize what my goals are in life, not even just in skating, just in everything. It’s everything to me, it’s created who I am.”

Since ice skating consumes most of her life, she is forced to make some sacrifices, like not participating in clubs or school sports.

“I haven’t had some of the same experiences as normal teenagers… But it’s okay because skating is enough for me,” she said.

All the hard work is put forth to her competitions. Pearson has competed in singles and pairs but currently is focusing on skating individually. Her favorite routines include slow, sad music that allows her to connect with the emotion of the song. Another favorite routine was from two years ago that had super funky and quirky music that she was able to use her emotions again. Some of her preferred moves include a double flip, where she jumps off the front of the blade and rotates twice, landing on the outside edge of the blade, and a layback spin, where she stands up straight on one foot then arches backwards while continuing to spin. The double flip allows her to go extremely fast into the turn and get extreme height on the jump. Pearson loves the layback spin because of its appearance.

A little more than a month ago, Pearson competed at regionals in Minnesota, her biggest competition all year. In the past, she has been to sectionals and nationals, which are prestigious competitions. At nationals in Boston in 2014, Pearson and her skating partner earned third place in intermediate pairs. In that same year, the pair were crowned sectional champions. Pearson was a an alternate twice at sectionals in case a competitor could not compete.

Overcoming Obstacles:

In every sport, everyone goes through ups and downs, and for Pearson, there’s been some bumps along the way. She has faced two major injuries, both taking her off the ice. One injury resulted from a jump where Pearson fractured her ankle and needed surgery. This took her off the ice completely for three to four months, but she couldn’t skate at her best for a whole year.

“Overcoming that was the hardest thing I’ve done in skating because once you come back from that, I wasn’t half the skater I was before. Coming back and being worse than I was before was really hard, but what I learned from that was I learned that if I put my mind to something, I can do anything,” said Pearson.

Her parents and coaches weren’t sure if Pearson would ever be able to come back because there was a chance her ankle would never fully heal. Colliding head-to-head with another skater resulted in a concussion. Although concussions take time to heal, it wasn’t as serious as her ankle injury.

Injuries aren’t the only difficulties Pearson has faced; trying to master moves is another struggle. Pearson’s biggest challenge as a skater was to learn a double axel. She is still in the process of overcoming the jump, and it has taken many years to master, but she’s finally getting the hang of it.  

Balancing Life:

With ice skating being a huge time commitment, Pearson is not left with much time for anything else. As it is, her school schedule is already cut back. Getting home late from practice leaves her minimal time to do her homework.

She has to miss school quite a bit for her competitions, and with that comes missed work she has to complete. Pearson always makes sure to stay on top of her school work and plan ahead of time so she’s not scrambling to make up anything.

“Sophia makes compromises in order to effectively juggle a full academic schedule with a full training schedule,” said Kristina Pearson. “She also surrounds herself with a great group of friends that understand her schedule and passion for skating.”

Friends are another aspect of life that Pearson tries to keep up with. She had never allowed her school friends see her skate until recently; Pearson said they thought it was amazing and were super supportive. Her skating friends are beyond supportive because they understand what it’s like to tackle all the hardships skating brings to her life.

“They are my real support system when it comes to getting through hard things or anything. They are always there for me and understand,” Pearson said.

Marissa Mazzetta, sophomore at LHS, is Pearson’s closest skating friend. They’ve had plenty of time to become friends as they have skated five days a week together for six years. Their friendship really took off when they both attended Highland Middle School, where they would skate before school together. Traveling to school everyday from training bonded Pearson and Mazzetta together.

The two don’t compete against each other but go to the same competitions. Mazzetta  glowingly raved about Pearson’s qualities that help her succeed in skating and daily life: determination, problem-solving skills and positivity.

“I think we both just try to lift each other up like when we’re down. And when we’re having a bad day of skating, we just try to cheer the other one up. We give each other advice on and off the ice,” Mazzetta described.

Future Goals

The next step in Pearson’s skating career is to finish all the individual levels in skating as she completes high school. Pearson then wants to join a collegiate team. This would be extremely different from what she is doing now.

Last year, Pearson and Mazzetta co-captained a high school figure skating team, IceCats, which is not affiliated with the high school hockey team. They organized a team for LHS and had to work with Bryant Kelly, LHS’s Athletic Director, to get the appropriate permissions to participate. Pearson and Mazzetta recruited some other skaters and created a team of six from nearby schools to compete in the US Figure Skating High School Competitions. Pearson plans to continue competing for IceCats throughout high school.

Pearson has been successful in her skating career and has set specific goals like perfecting turns; however, that’s not Pearson’s biggest concern:

“My main goal is always working my hardest and always being the best skater I can be and getting as far as I can with that.”

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