Twin sisters Sabin and Sophie Mitchell never tried ski jumping before their freshman year at Hanover High School. Now juniors, they enter today’s NHIAA Ski Jumping Championship at Plymouth Regional High School as two of the favorites to win the girls’ individual title.
Sabin, who co-captains the Hanover team with Mason Winter, is the two-time defending girls’ state champion. Sophie placed fourth last year and did not ski in the state championship meet her freshman campaign due to a concussion.
Both Sabin and Sophie have placed either first or second in each of Hanover’s four meets this season. The twins tied for first place in the team’s Jan. 2 meet at Lebanon High. Sophie won the team’s season-opening meet at home in December and the pre-states meet at Plymouth last week. Sabin won Hanover’s home meet on Jan. 30.
In all four meets, both Sabin and Sophie placed among the top 18 skiers — male or female.
“We’ve had lots of competitive girls over the years but rarely do you see two or three this competitive and rarely do you see them finishing as high in the overall results as they’ve been able to finish,” eighth-year Hanover coach Tom Dodds said.
Before taking up ski jumping, both competed in freestyle skiing, with Sophie primarily focused on aerials and Sabin on moguls. Both still compete in freestyle skiing but have made ski jumping their priority.
“They’ve adjusted as well as I’ve seen anybody adjust,” Dodds said. “It’s made me realize just how excellent Alpine skiers they are and how comfortable on skis and snow they are. The transition has been pretty seamless for both of them.”
While there are plenty of differences between the two disciplines, the Mitchell twins’ freestyle skiing background has helped them as ski jumpers.
“I know I would have fallen way more and much harder if I didn’t know how to ski as well as I do,” Sabin said. “Also, when skiing, you learn how to fall and I think that’s big and saved both Sophie and I from a lot of injuries.”
The twins’ love for skiing was sparked at a young age. They were about 3 years old when they first skied. Their grandfather, parents and older brother, Konrad, are all interested in the sport. Growing up, Sabin and Sophie watched Konrad and their neighbor, former Olympian Julia Krass, of Hanover, build ski jumps in their backyard.
At age 16, Krass was a member of the United States’ inaugural slopestyle team at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, finishing 11th in the event.
“They were always in the backyard building a jump,” Sophie said of Konrad and Krass. “As kids, we never had an excuse to not be outside on skis in the air. Having them having that passion really drove us.”
Despite their achievements, Sabin and Sophie both said they are working on fixing problems in their jumps they have had since freshman year. As they have worked to improve, both said they have benefited from having the other to either aid or motivate them.
“We’re just pushing each other critically kind of in a supportive way,” Sabin said.
Dodds described Sabin as thoughtful, measured and methodical in her approach and called Sophie one of the most dynamic and aggressive female jumpers in the state. Dodds said he saw a vast improvement in Sophie’s jump leading up to last year’s state championship meet, which created some competition between the sisters.
“Leading up to states, Sophie was jumping as well as anyone during that week,” Dodds said. “It sort of raised all our eyebrows a little bit and frankly, I think that was an opportunity where Sabin really was pushed to step back and say, ‘OK, what adjustment do I need to make here to catch back up to Sophie?”
Sabin and Sophie each credited their success this season to the close-knit, family-like atmosphere the Hanover team has. During the offseason — Sabin plays field hockey in the fall and they both play lacrosse in the spring — the twins try to recruit new members to the ski jumping team.
“I wish I got into ski jumping sooner,” Sophie said. “It’s so much fun and anyone who learns to ski jump is gonna love it.”
One of Sophie’s main goals entering this season was to beat Sabin at a meet, which she has already achieved. Now both have their eyes on the girls’ state title.
“We’re going for a tie,” Sophie said. “We’d both be happy if one of us won but if we tied, that’d be the icing on the cake.”