Clair DeGeorge to the third power
It all started when Clair DeGeorge sought a much-needed time-killer.
Fast-forward five years, and open season on her agenda is a distant memory. Free moments are now an endangered species, as they are wont to become for a Division I student-athlete.
Fortunately, the Bemidji State women’s forward and U.S. national team prospect who cites the Rubik’s Cube as her top “hidden talent” has struck a regulatory compromise. Knowing her limits, she has mastered her personal ceiling with a 58-second completion.
Even on the relatively relaxed 3-by-3-by-3 variant she prefers, that pales in comparison to the world record. This past May, Australian prodigy Feliks Zemdegs revised his Guinness entry by ordering the six colors in 4.221 ticks.
Still, it makes for a perfect pregame routine, one that gives her sticks a longer breather before ice time arrives. When others might squeeze in some last-minute dryland puckhandling rehearsal, DeGeorge organizes the color-coded nine-member teams.
“It’s more to get my wrists a little bit warmed up,” she explained to Pucks and Recreation. “At this point I usually just do it based on supersitition.”
Given the time of the Rubik’s Cube’s arrival in her life, its lasting side role explains itself. An Anchorage, Alaska, native, DeGeorge first came to Minnesota to enroll as a ninth-grade student at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School. There she would test her on-ice potential in the program that produced four gold-medal Pyeongchang Olympians in Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel, Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux.
She would also undertake an upgrade in academic rigor at the state’s sole boarding school. And yet, she recalls, “I had a lot of time on my hands” in that 2013-14 school year.
All of SSM’s hockey teams (five boys’ and two girls’) function as a travel program. This entails a six-month schedule split between home dates and coach bus trips to action-packed weekends.
While on the 16-and-under team, DeGeorge found her new road-trip and general downtime diversion. “A couple of my teammates taught me their ways of being able to get the patterns down,” she said. “After a lot of practice, I just got to doing it pretty fast.”
Not that she is prepared to sprint head-on into her boundaries. The conventional variants on a Rubik’s Cube range in six sizes, all classified by cubes per row and column. To date, DeGeorge has mastered the de facto Level II out of six.
The highest basic size, 7-by-7-by-7, is an admitted reach. Moreover, she resists the playful pushing of fellow BSU Beavers who send her viral videos of stunt speedcubers.
“I never want to try it blindfolded,” she said in reference to one of the most common challenge upgrades. Ditto tackling a cube under water, using a single hand, using one’s feet or juggling the toy in the process.
But concomitant with her cubing discovery, DeGeorge found more meaningful ways of translating her cerebral prowess. With SSM running its middle school through ninth grade, she was in contention for that level’s top grade-point average in 2013-14. She was taken aback upon learning she had retained the highest mark at year’s end.
“It was never really on my mind,” she said. Nonetheless, the achievement did impel her to “reevaulate” her capabilities.
By the time she was a high-school junior, the same year she made Team USA’s 18-and-under select squad, DeGeorge was on SSM’s Cum Laude list. As a senior, she collected one award apiece in academics, athletics and service and citizenship.
Those were all payoffs for substantial investments and sacrifices of time, mind you.
“Balancing the two is the hardest,” she said. “It’s hard to be studying and working on your athletics and knowing that all your friends are out having fun. When the day is done, you realize you haven’t had time to talk to everyone you wanted to.”
Ice-wise, DeGeorge caught her biggest break on the heels of her holiday respite from school in 2016-17. Making the cut for the 18-and-under national squad at the World Junior Championship, she went to the Czech Republic for the first half of January.
She would chalk up five assists in as many tournament games, including the primary helper on the icebreaker in a 3-1 win over Canada for the gold. But with the winter term fast folding back at her home away from home, reality waited to hit hard.
“I spent the rest of the semester in the library,” she said. “You just have to pick and choose what your priorities are and figure out the rest.”
Within four months of that whirlwind, DeGeorge was summoned to the stage three times at SSM’s year-end awards ceremony. Among her accolades, the academic jewel came for attaining the highest marks in science. She has carried that credential over to a concentration in nursing studies at BSU.
Since she moved upstate and enrolled in college, the Rubik’s Cube has become a little of her “rest” once again. And DeGeorge is not ruling out a future crack at the four-by-four-by-four variant.
“Maybe someday,” she mused, “if I can get a lot of time on my hands.”