COLORADO SPRINGS. Dreaming big requires sacrifice. Maryn Pierce, a senior at St. Mary’s High School, knew this before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, but it is a lesson that has reared its head again and again over the last several months. Despite the constant adjustments, Pierce continues to pursue her dream of standing on the podium at the US Figure Skating Championships.
Maryn doesn’t remember a time when skating wasn’t a part of her life. She began learning the sport when she was 3 years old, alongside her best friend at the time. By the time her friend’s interest in skating waned, Pierce had fallen in love with it.
“For several years I was involved in gymnastics and competitive dance, as well as skating, but when my parents told me I had to choose one, I knew it would be skating because by then, it was my passion,” she said.
That passion eventually led the family to relocate from Texas to Colorado Springs. In 2018, the Pierce family decided that, although Maryn loved her coaches and friends in Texas, for her skating to progress, she needed a change. The family began to research communities that could support both Maryn’s skating dreams as well as her desire to continue her education in a Catholic high school environment. After visiting Colorado Springs, the family decided they had found a new home in the Broadmoor Skating Club at the World Arena Ice Hall and at St. Mary’s High School.
Changing schools, coaches and communities in the middle of a high school career can be daunting, but Maryn said her experience in the time since the move has only confirmed that her family made the right decision.
“School is very important to me, and when we found St. Mary’s via a web search and visited, I just fell in love with it,” Maryn said. “At first, I was a little worried about making the change when we did because everyone says that your junior year of high school is the hardest one. But I’m so thankful we made the change. Everyone was so welcoming to me and has been so supportive.”
Maryn’s mom, Susan, said the family moved Maryn to a Catholic school environment in Texas for her sixth grade year after seeing the impact that Catholic education had on her brothers, who both graduated from a Catholic high school. Mason graduated in 2014 and Merek in 2015. That was why having access to a quality Catholic education was an important component of the Pierce family’s move. Susan said that, from the beginning, St. Mary’s has worked with Maryn’s course load to accommodate her practice schedule and support her dreams in whatever way they could.
As this skating season drew closer, the Pierce family decided it was best for Maryn to move from attending St. Mary’s hybrid model of instruction, where students are on campus two days per week, to attending school completely online. They hope to limit possible exposure to COVID-19 that might sideline Maryn’s competitive season as well as put those at the training facility and school at risk. Susan said that St. Mary’s teachers, counselors and administrators have fully supported their decision.
“We just can’t say enough good things about St. Mary’s,” Susan said. “The school community is like family, very loving and supportive. And it has been a blessing to have options, like choosing to go completely online, and being supported in deciding what’s best for our family.”
The move to Colorado Springs has been good for Maryn’s skating as well; she now trains with Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin. In early 2020, she won her regional competition and earned the bronze medal at sectionals to qualify for her first U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Of course, like everything, the pandemic has changed the 2020-2021 competitive skating season but Maryn continues to excel.
Over the summer she competed in virtual competitions earning the points needed to qualify for U.S. Figure Skating’s International Selection Pool. That places her in the top 40 women in the country and puts her in contention for international competition spots. Maryn decided to continue competing at the junior level this year, given the lack of opportunities to compete in person over the summer and to allow her to grow more as a skater.
“It’s very different to compete virtually with no judges or audience, just a video camera,” Maryn said.
But Maryn is meeting the challenge of virtual competitions head on. In late October, she learned that she won the junior ladies event at the Aerial Figure Skating Challenge, an annual competition that focuses on skills and jumps that this year was held virtually. During the pandemic the World Arena Ice Hall has provided opportunities for skaters to perform in front of their parents, who are appropriately socially distanced in the stands, but that has been Maryn’s only real opportunity to skate in front of an audience.
So, Maryn is looking forward to returning to in-person competitions, which at press time are scheduled to resume in November. This month she will compete in person for the first time this season at two qualifying events for the 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The first of the competitions will be in Washington state and second in Georgia.
In addition to preparing for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Maryn is looking forward to serving as a U.S. Figure Skating Athlete Alumni Ambassador. She received one of the 2020 Athlete Alumni Ambassador (3A) awards over the summer. The scholarship program recognizes skaters who have achieved figure skating excellence while actively volunteering.
Last year, Maryn worked with St. Mary’s National Honor Society and the World Arena Ice Hall to plan a coat drive to benefit the homeless in the Colorado Springs area. The drive brought in 150 coats for those in need. Maryn had hoped for the drive to be an annual event, and still hopes that this year she is able to plan something similar, even within the constraints posed by the pandemic.
Although 2020 has unfolded differently from how Maryn envisioned, she is focusing on her goals of consistently landing her triple axel and working toward becoming the U.S. national ladies figure skating champion. She’s learning to be adaptable and remaining positive in the face of constant change.
“My faith is important to me. I believe that God has a plan and that a positive outlook is necessary to success,” she said. “I can’t change anything that’s happening, but I can make the best of it. I can check on my friends using technology and I can work toward my goals. I have the support of my family and the community. And I can continue to try to make a difference in the world.”
(Amy G. Partain is Director of Communications of St. Mary’s High School.)