Since its inception, 22-year-old Sophie Clarke has always wanted to be on the final stage of the CBS television show “Survivor.”
Clarke, a native of Willsboro who starred for the Warriors on the field and court as well as in the classroom, was crowned champion during a three-hour season finale.
“My parents were here,” said Clarke, who spoke over phone from Los Angeles, where the finale was aired. “Both my sisters were here along with a friend from college and a family friend.”
Clarke said that she did her best to keep her family members in the dark, especially her older twin sisters, Edwina and Phoebe.
“I was really cruel because about an hour before the finale started I texted my sisters and told them that I didn’t really win the million,” Clarke said. “So they watched the whole episode thinking that I didn’t win. I think they swore at me when I finally made it down to hug them after the show.
“They knew my dad came out for the family visit, but they knew nothing after that,” Clarke added. Her father, Thurston, had been a guest on the show when one family member was allowed to visit.
Clarke said that her phone started “blowing up” shortly after the winning moment.
“Someone turned my phone off as I was doing interviews after the show,” Clarke said. “I had 100 texts and 200 Facebook messages. I still have my computer in front of me. I don’t think anyone in my cast had so much support. It’s so nice to have it coming from your hometown and have it coming from people that you have known since you were 5 years old.”
Clarke also got a chance to mention her hometown during the finale.
“It was so nice to mention Willsboro on national television when Jeff (Probst, the shows host) brought it up,” Clarke said.
Clarke said that she was able to use the skills that she learned growing up in the small town of Willsboro to her advantage during the show, including learning how to be a part of a group with different ideals.
“If you look at the alliance I created there, I had a pact with a rancher, a ‘dragon slayer,’ a dating coach and a 19-year-old with two kids, 50 tattoos and a wife. At times, it was hard group of people to be around.”
Clarke said that Willsboro helped her to mix with that variety of people.
“There’s not enough people to pick your friends,” Clarke said. “That was probably one of the weirdest alliances in Survivor history. I grew to really appreciate everybody out there. Willsboro helped with that.”
Clarke said that because of her alliance, the strategy was able to remain the same throughout the season.
“I realized I was in this alliance of people that were not going to go back on there word with me,” Clarke said. “I saw this very clear path to the final six. When I got there, it was like an onion; there were alliances within alliances, and I was fortunate to be a part of each one of them.”
While Clarke received a lot of support and well-wishes from Willsboro, she said that her friends at med school in New York City were a lot more aloof to her exploits.
“People in my medical school were not that into the show,” she said. “A lot of them really didn’t know that I was on it. They know now. It was nice to do my thing and go to class and study, on Wednesday night be on national television and then go back to being with my friends the next day.”
Clarke said that she felt her road to the prize was made complete in the final immunity challenge, when she beat her toughest competition and fan favorite, Ozzy Lusth, in a puzzle.
“I knew that if I lost that challenge, I was going home that night,” Clarke said. “It was like penalty kicks in a soccer game. This was the last shot I had to win it or go home. Ozzy was going to walk away with it. That was a million dollar challenge for Ozzy, and it turned out to be a million-dollar challenge for me, too.”
Clarke, who graduated from Middlebury College before enrolling in med school, said that the bulk of her money will go toward college expenses, but that she will keep some to splurge.
“I like the idea of just getting a ticket and going somewhere,” she said. “I would like to splurge and do something that I would have never done and just go somewhere.”
As for a return to her hometown, Clarke, who made an appearance at Johnny’s Restaurant during Thanksgiving break, said that she will be home for the last part of the holidays.
“I am going to be back after Christmas for a couple of days so I am excited to see everyone for New Year’s,” she said.
For more, including he secret weapon contained in the water bottle for the final tribal council, listen to our interview with Survivor Champion Sophie Clarke online at www.thevalleynews.org.