Sophie Clarke with fellow competitor Edna during the show, ‘Survivor.’
Fans from the South Pacific to Willsboro watched Sunday night, Dec. 18, as Willsboro native Sophie Clarke endured physical and strategic challenges to become champion of the hit television show “Survivor” and win $1 million.
Town of Willsboro residents sat on the edge of their seats until the moment their hometown star was proclaimed the 23rd “Survivor” winner.
On her personal bio on the show’s website, Sophie wrote she is “skeptical of lionization of any one person,” but the people who watched her grow both in school and through the television screen are calling her a local hero.
From Albany, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said she followed Clarke’s progress on the show through her family members in Willsboro, and called Clarke a local hero.
“I always thought from the very beginning that Sophie would win,” Sayward said. “She is strong, smart, and driven. It didn't surprise me at all that she won. It’s wonderful.”
At Clarke’s alma mater, Willsboro Central School Superintendent Stephen Broadwell said students and faculty were all talking about “Survivor” Monday morning.
“Sophie’s success has united our school,” Broadwell said. “The whole school was buzzing this morning, students and teachers all excited for Sophie’s success.”
Clarke’s former teacher said he saw her potential from a young age and she followed through with this challenge.
“I’m proud of her,” Wally Vanderhoff, math teacher and former dean of students at Willsboro Central School said.
Vanderhoff said he has known Clarke since she was in the fifth grade and said she had always strived and succeeded at being the best at everything, from being valedictorian to captain of the soccer team.
“She’s an outstanding young woman,” Vanderhoff said. “She was always thinking in great depth to challenge herself, her classmates and even her teachers. She always wanted to know more.”
Every Wednesday night, Sophie fans have gathered at Johnny’s restaurant on Route 22 for SOS (Sophie On Survivor) Night. At SOS night, Johnny’s owner, Trisha Sheehan, said dedicated Sophie fans gathered in the bar at their designated tables to watch the show and support their local contestant. The most dedicated followers, Sophie Faithfuls, reserved their tables in advance for the two-hour finale on Dec. 18.
“Last night, every single seat in the bar area was filled and the crowd even spilled out into the dining area,” Sheehan said Dec. 19. “When she was announced the winner, the crowd went wild. They were cheering, crying, and making phone calls. It was great.”
Clarke’s biggest fan — Rick Carter at Adirondack Hardware in Willsboro — has been telling everyone who walked into the store about the town’s newest millionaire.
“I am the biggest ‘Survivor’ fan here in Willsboro,” Carter said. “If people didn’t know Sophie won when they walked into the store, they definitely knew leaving the store.”
Carter said he has been collecting every article written about Clarke’s triumph through the competition and has recorded all of the episodes of “Survivor” and hopes when Clarke comes back to town she can autograph his DVD.
“If she comes into the store, it’ll take me 2 minutes to get my collection from home,” Carter said. “I’ll have it back here ready to be autographed by the time she gets done shopping.”
Carter said he was surprised and happy Clarke won.
“She was a tough girl and was a great competitor,” he said.