Some skills are developed over years of hard work and others through an innate talent, discovered suddenly and sometimes by accident. The latter was the case with Farmington’s Sophie Shack, whose family discovered her remarkable gift for running when she signed up for Hershey Track and Field for the first time in third grade.
“We’ve always known she was quick but when she blew everyone away in Farmington last year, then we knew she was really fast,” said her dad, Erik.
Sophie went on to the regional meet and qualified for the Hershey Track and Field National Games.
She did it again this year.
“This year, a year had gone by and she worried she was not quite as fast as she thought she was,” her dad said.
When she raced in Farmington, she found she had nothing to worry about it.
“She raced the 50 and 100 meters and she blew everyone away. Her time was better than all the boys, the girls and the 11 and 12-year-olds,” he said.
Sophie ran in the regional meet and her parents looked for other opportunities for her to run. She participated in the Nutmeg Games and in the Junior Olympics.
She came in a disappointing seventh for her age group at the Junior Olympics in Long Island, but her parents explained that there she was a small fish in a big pond.
Sophie also signed up for 10 sessions of a special running school in Bristol, which she paid for with birthday money.
“It was all her. She wanted to do it and we just drove her back and forth,” Erik explained.
The school helped her improve speed and strength, as well as taught form and technique, Erik said.
“They give each kid a rating. There are eight levels for kids and adults and each one’s a different cat,” he said. “She wasn’t even ranked among the kids; she was second-highest among the adults.”
In Hershey, PA at the national meet, Sophie competed in the 10-year-old age group and took second place, though she wasn’t yet 10.
“It was really cool that I got second place,” Sophie said. “I was really thinking about technique and everything. And I was really nervous but it was fun.”
“I met all the people in Connecticut and someone from Oklahoma and that’s the girl who came in first place. We exchanged t-shirts.”
The kids also were treated to a tour of the Hershey Chocolate Factory and a trip to Hershey Park.
The experience was inspiring, too, with lessons about sportsmanship and opportunities to make friends from all over the country.
“The athletes mainly stayed together and did a lot of events together and parents were allowed to go to opening ceremonies,” Sophie’s mom, Anna said. “There was a parade of athletes in the beginning and Carl Lewis was there and other Olympic runners and the athletes could get their autographs.”
Back home, Sophie’s back to the other things she loves – Farmington travel soccer, playing the violin and school.
“She’s shy and modest — unless she’s beating you in a race,” Anna said. “She’s relatively quiet and she also does extremely well in school. She pretty much has all the tools. She’s a good kid.”