Sophia Marshall, a Nordic skier from Huntsville who skis for the Highlands Trailblazers out of Duntroon/Collingwood and for the Huntsville High School Nordic Ski team, has been taking her sport to the top of the podium.
Sophia’s coach, Rick Dickey, says his job as a high-performance coach allows him to come in contact with some very special young people with amazing ambition and determination to be their best. “Sophia Marshall is one such person,” he says.
Her high school coach, John Cowan, has been helping her every step of the way. He describes her as “a humble athlete who has a goal like any other athlete but when the tough gets tougher she digs deeper.”
Skiing has been a huge part of Sophia’s family’s life. “I have been cross-country skiing for as long as I can remember. My parents would pull me in the ski chariot when I was just a baby,” she says.
Marshall began skiing on her own by the age of two, skied competitively at five years old, and has been loving it ever since. “I cross-country ski because I love it! It’s my passion! I love being outside, and the way that my sport is keeping me healthy and active all the time,” she says. “I love not only the individual aspect of the sport but the team atmosphere as well. Being with my team is so much fun, and I always look forward to every training session with them. The atmosphere is so positive and I love the team spirit that we share at races, whether it’s sparkles on our face or just encouraging each other, it makes me smile and realize how much I love it.”
Sophia competes in both classic and skate skiing and everything from sprint races, which are 1.5km long, to distance races that are up to 10km.
“Cross-country skiing is something that has taught me so many lessons in life from being responsible to just learning how to be disciplined and having resilience and perseverance to achieve my goals, and is another reason that skiing is something I love,” she adds.
Dickey says Sophia’s “combination of passion and pride she has for her sport, her training and her racing makes it so easy to contribute to her program and the development she so eagerly is striving for. Results that show up on race days are always the result of the hard work and the accumulation of quality efforts. It truly is an honour to work with someone with so much appreciation for the opportunities her sport provides.”
Sophia competed in the OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) high school Nordic ski championships and earned the gold medal for the individual ski race.
“Sophia Marshall is the ‘best’ high school Junior Girl in the province with her victory at OFSAA Nordic ski championships,” says Cowan. Her drive to the end paid off—she won by just fifteen-one-hundredths of a second over the second place competitor. Her win makes her the first Huntsville High School Nordic skier to stand on the top of the podium at the OFSAA championship in the history of the HHS Nordic ski program, notes Cowan.
Cowan adds that Marshall has been training hard since May. “Her workout plans and hours dedicated in following her plan is paramount to her success. On the training days and competition days she rallies her teammates by leading and also by giving suggestions.”
Sophia has also done really well on the Ontario Cup provincial circuit, coming in top-three for every race this season and bringing home a gold and two silver medals.
This season Sophia has been racing up two categories against girls that are three to five years older than she is. She finished in sixth place at the Eastern Canadian Championships for the 1.5km classic sprint and eighth in the 10km classic race. “I was only 30 seconds behind a girl who qualified for Canada Winter Games (again racing up two categories) almost qualifying me for the games even though I was fairly young to try and qualify,” she says.
The week before OFSAA, Marshall had one of her biggest training blocks of the winter with a focus on building towards the Canadian Ski Championships. “She truly does love this sport because as the workouts increased and the workload accumulated she just smiled more and was content with the growing fatigue and enjoying the hours on her skis,” said Dickey.
The Canadian Ski Championships will be held on March 13-20 in Cantley, Quebec (Gatineau). Sophia will be competing with the Highlands Trailblazers.
One of Sophia’s short-term goals is to make the Ontario Junior Ski Team, and then in her grade 12 school year to make the Ontario Senior Ski team. “My ultimate goal is to make the national team and to someday go to the Olympics. Cross-country skiing is a very long sport which requires a great deal of training, but I know that if I continue to put in the hard work, I can make this goal a reality.”
It is true that to be a champion, you first have to love what you do and Sophia truly is champion and a great role model for us all to be proud of.
Highlands Trailblazers Head Coach, Rick Dickey
Sophia also loves to share her passion with the younger athletes she meets. “I hope to continue encouraging younger athletes in their sport, whether it’s cross country skiing or not, and that if they continue to persevere and chase their dreams, they will someday become a reality. I also hope to promote the sport of cross-country skiing, and encourage younger kids the importance of staying healthy and active.”
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