Those who know Hannah Soria will not be surprised when they one day see her on television skiing on the U.S. Olympic Team.
This year, she medaled in sixth place in Slalom Division and 10th place in Kombi (Giant Slalom and Slalom and jumps) with an overall 18th-place finish in the USSA Rocky Mountain/Central Region U14 Junior Championship, which is the former Junior Olympics.
The 12-year-old daughter of Dr. Loren and Jean Soria of Geneseo also qualified for the former Junior Olympics in March of last year. Her skill and speed have improved each year, and her talent demands commitment from Hannah and her entire family.
She and her mother lived in Marquette, Mich., from the end of 2012 through early March so Hannah could train and compete as a member of the Great Lakes Ski Academy, which both she and her younger sister, Megan, 10, are members.
“Hannah races with the team, and Megan is a member of the developmental team,” said their mother, Jean.
Even though the weather is now warm, there are visions of ski slopes in her memories. She qualified for the U14 US Ski Team that raced against Canada, and includes just 35 girls from each country, for the CanAm U14 games.
When Mom and daughter lived in Michigan, Hannah was able to complete her school classes online before spending two to four hours of practice on the slopes six days a week.
Hannah competes in the U14 USSA (US Ski and Snowboard Association) age group where she competes in Giant Slalom (GS), Slalom (SL), Kombi (GS + SL + jumps), Super G and Skills Quest.
In Michigan, she raced in the U14 Central Championship against 90 girls representing states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. She earned a seventh place medal in both GS and Kombi with an overall 11th place finish, which earned her a spot to compete in the USSA Rocky Mountain/Central Region U14 Junior Championship in Winterpark, Colo., where the Top 45 Central Region racers compete against the Top 45 Rocky Mountain Region racers.
Hannah earned a sixth place medal in SL and medaled in 10th place in Kombi with an overall 18th place finish.
She was among the Top 35 USSA U14 girls selected to represent the United States to race against the top U14 girls from Canada at Mont Treblant, Quebec, Canada, for the U14 Can Am games.
The race was held during spring break in March of this year, and Hannah and her mother returned “home” to Geneseo after that race.
Hannah is not the only Soria who takes to the slopes. Skiing is a “family affair” for dad, Dr. Loren, and mom, Jean, as well as for her 14-year-old brother, Nathan, and 10-year-old sister, Megan.
Page 2 of 3 - The Soria children began skiing when they were 4 year-olds, when their father began taking them to Snowstar Ski Area in Andalusia on his Thursday afternoons off from the office.
Jean said her husband learned to ski at Snowstar when he was in college at Augustana.
Dr. Soria took each of the three children when they were in day care and it became a together-time for dad and child until the children entered kindergarten.
Those times are a special memory for Hannah, who said, “I remember how he would help me by putting me on the lift and showing me how to do things the right way.”
During one of those family outings at Snowstar, the Soria children were noticed by a ski team coach who invited them to join the team.
“It was too late in the year, but the kids were so excited and that was all they could talk about that summer and fall,” Jean said.
Nathan and Hannah began ski racing at age 7, and Megan has raced for four years.
When she was 7, Hannah crashed on her very first race at Chestnut Mountain in Galena and finished in 35th place. “We thought this was going to be a long year,” Jean said, “But by her second race at Sundown in Dubuque, Iowa, she was in the Top 5.”
The Soria children race in giant slalom and slalom with the difference being the giant slalom has fewer gates with wider turns, emphasizing speed, while slalom has many gates placed closer together and tends to be a more technical race.
Each race consists of two runs where the competitors are given a combined time. If a child wins two first places, they move up to the next age group and compete against older kids for the rest of the season.
Hannah has moved up four times since her skiing career began.
In 2011, the Soria kids began racing in the United States Ski Association or USSA program which is the umbrella group for the U.S. Ski Team and includes alpine ski racing, freestyle skiing, Nordic skiing, ski jumping and snowboarding.
The USSA is the feeder program for the national teams with the U.S. divided into regions, and this area is the Central Region, encompassing central states from Minnesota to Ohio.
Jean said USSA racing is more competitive racing where courses are three times longer on bigger and steeper mountains.
“In addition to giant slalom and slalom, the kids have to race in additional events at wicked fast speeds,” she said, with most of the races in the region held at ski areas in the upper peninsula of Michigan and Minnesota.
Page 3 of 3 - The Soria children also attended a week-long ski camp in Loveland, Colo., during Thanksgiving break from school.
As for Hannah, she said she simply “loves to ski and go very fast.” She likes traveling to new places and has met many good friends who also love to ski.
“I just want to keep racing as long as I can,” she said.
Skiing is not the only area in which she excels. Hannah also is a straight-A student at Geneseo Middle School. She competes in Geneseo Soccer Club travel soccer as a member of the Spitfire Soccer Team and is a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and finds time to play the piano and electric guitar. She enjoys running and said she also loves art.