After several years as a competitive figure skater, Peyton Dutcher has refocused on a new passion informed by her experiences as an athlete.

The 18-year-old Invermere resident stopped skating due to the competitive nature of the sport and recently began focus on body-building.

“It got a little bit too competitive for me. I lost my passion for it,” said Ms. Dutcher about figure skating.

“Going into body building, I can compete against myself, and I really like how the gym makes me feel.”

While the pandemic may have disrupted the regular school year for students across the province, Ms. Dutcher has been completing courses in Calculus and Chemistry for her last semester at David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS). Her plans for the future are to harness maths and sciences to pursue an undergraduate degree in Medical Radiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in the fall — a decision fuelled by her experiences as a competitive athlete.

“I had to get multiple X-rays while figure skating, and it always intrigued me,” she explained. “The different views of the body intrigued me. It’s been the most interesting part of going to the doctor’s.”

While studying chemistry online via DTSS has the added challenge of not being able to access a lab for experiments, Ms. Dutcher has been completing the assignments by describing how you could have conducted the lab-work in a safe environment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a typical school day for Ms. Dutcher includes a family breakfast in the morning, studying online throughout the day, being outdoors to break-up the doldrums, working out then having dinner at home.

“It’s getting a bit hectic now,” she said. “I definitely don’t feel as motivated (for school) now that I’m in my house so often. Not being able to go out as much is sad, or not seeing any of my friends and not being able to do any of the grad activities we hear our families talk about is sad. I feel like we missed out.”

She added the month of May has been busy with class assignments, but expects the reality will sink in more with DTSS graduates in June.

“In June, I think it will hit me a lot more. It’s so sad,” said Ms. Dutcher. “We had to go in to clean out our lockers and we didn’t get to do anything that my parents or my brother talks about for grad. I was looking forward to the grad walk (the most), or probably the dry grad because all of my classmates are so fun to hang out with. They’re so fun to mess around with and it would’ve been so fun with everyone.”

However, the DTSS principal has been facilitating discussions with the grad class to hear what the students of 2020 would prefer to commemorate the occasion. Ms. Dutcher anticipates that roughly half of the graduating class joins the Microsoft Teams conference call to discuss potential solutions to celebrate, while still safely adhering to the guidance of social distancing measures.

But for Ms. Dutcher, these discussions are bittersweet.

“When I start to talk about grad, it just makes me sad because I think about all the things we won’t get to do,” said Ms. Dutcher. “It’s frustrating but we all want to make the most of what we can… I hope the future grads live it up for us because we didn’t get ours.”

In fact, Ms. Dutcher had purchased a burgundy bodycon cut dress with silver rhinestones from a Cranbrook-based business in November so that she could focus on school work during the second semester.

“I had the grad dress bought in November,” she explained. “I was an eager beaver. I was really excited to graduate, and I didn’t want to be stressed about any grad stuff at this time, so I wanted to have it over and done with.”

When asked what her preference would be to celebrate graduation, Ms. Dutcher expressed optimism that the event could be postponed until it was safe to meet in-person, even if it’s a year out.

“I definitely want it to be postponed,” she explained. “I don’t want to do something during the pandemic because I want to get as much of the grad experience as possible. We’ve waited 12 years for this, even in the fall, I would be happy with having the experience later.”

For the time being, Ms. Dutcher is holding out hope that her first year of university will be offered in-person as opposed to online.

“It’s an experience that you want to have,” she said. “First year university is an experience that I may not ever get to have again, it’s just like graduation.”