In a sport where half a second can make the difference between first and fifth place, Alex Parker has perfected the art of winning.
This tiny skier is in her freshman season of competition for UAA, however inexperienced is not a word to describe her. Parker started skiing around the age of two and has continued through ski clubs and high school, all the way up to being a member of the Canadian Alpine Olympic Development team.
The current Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association’s Women’s Most Valuable Skier has finished the regular 2008-2009 skiing season with one of the best records the RMISA has seen in the women’s alpine division and still has more to go.
Alexandra Parker was born to Garth and Brenda Parker in Calgary, Alberta.
“It was always sports; that’s where she was happiest,” Brenda said of Alex’s athletic experiences.
Her Father Garth Parker attended Middlebury College in Vermont on a hockey scholarship and both of her parents are avid runners. They encouraged Alex and her younger sister Evann in sports such as soccer, skiing and golf from early ages.
Alex and her sister would often compete in golf tournaments when they were younger, and although Evann still competes, Alex found her true passion in skiing.
Although she was great at what she did, her small stature was constantly being commented on. Many coaches said that even though she was a top notch athlete, her tiny frame would never allow her to be as good as other skiers.
Alex’s mental maturity and love of the sport overcame that, however, and she continued to grow in skiing.
When Alex was 15, she tore various ligaments in her knee and had to take a year off. During that year, she worked vigorously on her homework from West Island College, her high school in Calgary, to eliminate the tougher classes and make getting back into skiing easier. Alex’s maturity was also shown when she acted as a starting coach for her sister’s ski club races and was greatly appreciated by everyone.
“[She would] get her sister set up for races and all of Evann’s team mates wanted her up there as their starter coach because she had such good advice for them and they really liked her,” Brenda said.
After Alex’s knee healed, it was as if nothing had even happened. Soon she made the Alberta Ski Team at age 17, and at 18, she was chosen to be on the Canadian Alpine Olympic Development team.
In the Spotlight
While on the Canadian Development team, Parker travelled around the U.S., Canada, South America and even Europe, representing Canada and training for the next two Winter Olympics.
Being on the Nationals team not only introduced her to the stiff competition around the world, but it also gave her the chance to meet coach Jim Read, a former Nationals team member himself, and someone who inspired Parker in skiing.
“I owe a lot of my success to the program he had set up and I learned a lot about skiing from him,” Parker said.
Racing during the ski season and training during the summer left no time for school, however, and placed mass amounts of pressure on the skiers themselves. Nonetheless, Parker travelled and trained for two years straight, showing her mental and physical toughness.
“[Jim Read] used to say, ‘It’s amazing because she has the body of a ten year old and the athletic mind of a forty year old,” Brenda Parker said.
Despite her mental toughness, Alex Parker felt as though she was missing something.
Growing up, she had always intended to go to college after high school by getting a golf scholarship. Taking a year off after her high school graduation and qualifying for the Alberta team, however, made taking college courses seem impossible. Being chosen for the National team made it undeniably impossible.
“You have to be really in love with that kind of lifestyle, with travelling and skiing being your life,” Parker said. “If you don’t love it, you have to be honest with yourself so that you’re not regretting.”
So after placing eleventh at the Super Giant Slalom in the 2007 Canadian National Championships, first in Giant Slalom at a Federation of International Skiing event, and sixth in both Giant Slalom and Slalom events at the 2008 Canadian National Junior Championships, Parker decided she wanted to go to college and be a student athlete.
Becoming a star UAA athlete
After reading about colleges such as University of Nevada Reno and New Mexico State, Parker visited UAA and decided it was the place to be. Not only did she know some other Canadians on the ski team, but she immediately liked head alpine ski coach Sparky Anderson. Even after the Nationals team offered Parker her previous position on the team, she stayed to compete at UAA.
“I think that speaks to UAA and the program here,” Anderson said. “But she’s super grounded. She doesn’t let any of this go to her head, I think which is one of the reasons she continues to be successful. Although she’s winning and there’s not anyone really beating her, she keeps working hard and doesn’t act like a superstar and she treats her teammates really well.”
Parker has recorded six first place victories this season alone, along with keeping a 4.0 in her courses at UAA. She is just one of ten women skiers to finish all ten races for the season and helped UAA’s women’s team to their first place standings finish in the regular season by almost fifty points.
“Going to different mountains and courses is tough, so to be able to win that many times in a row on that many different venues shows the depth of her talent,” Anderson said.
Despite her still hectic training and travel schedule, Parker still enjoys hanging out with friends and watching UAA’s other sports teams play and is said to have seen each of the other teams’ events. She also hopes to have more time to play golf and soccer in the summer now that she won’t be training as much for skiing like she did when on the Nationals team.