SVSEF cross country skier Sophia Mazzoni is unassuming in demeanor. Her intensity and drive percolate subtly in the facts of the stories she tells, of steep mountains conquered in mere hours or days. Last August, it was Idaho’s nine tallest peaks, all over 12,000 feet, in just three days, seven hours and 37 minutes. As a 16-year-old. Just 10 months later, on July 6, 2018, the 17-year-old Community School senior completed the “Three Kings Challenge,” climbing Glassford, Ryan and Kent, three peaks in the Boulder Mountains all over 11,500 feet, in 11 hours and 45 minutes.
The Three Kings Challenge is a long-standing test established by SVSEF Cross Country Program Director Rick Kapala 30 years ago. It was set with the stipulation that the run must be completed in under 12 hours from car to car. Sophia is the first high school student in those 30 years to finish under the time limit. Her accomplishment did not end there – she is also the first female to do so. The list of those who have found success is short – just five individuals can claim they have completed the challenge in the allotted amount of time. Dave Bingham and Rob Landis, both former SVSEF coaches, are on that list. A group of three male college athletes led by SVSEF alum Pat Casey, who were all around 23 years old when they attempted the climb, fill the remaining spots.
Sophia is not one to take things lightly, and she is not one to back down. Despite swollen feet and foreboding weather, she pushed through the nine peaks last year. LIkewise, at the end of the Three Kings Challenge, she hammered down Kent by way of West Pass Trail, and, to quote the athlete, “went way back into the tunnel” to push through the final section into the trailhead at the end of North Fork Road. Accompanied only by her father Jim on a couple sections, Sophia has unearthed an uncanny ability to charge ahead alone, both physically and mentally. Overruling any doubts that may naturally occupy one’s mind from time to time on a ½ day trek, and having the physical stamina and the determination to do so, is not a combination that comes easily to many.
Her reward for completing the challenge? A full steak dinner and dessert on Rick Kapala’s tab. He thinks she’ll go for the mud pie.