It’s more than a little believable that Payden Jason Tanner, a senior at Viewmont High School, started putting on ice skates at an early age largely thanks to the influence of his parents.
His mother, Holly Cook, finished third at the 1990 world figure skating championships, edging out a young Kristi Yamaguchi for the bronze medal.
Everything isn’t as it appears to be, however. Yes, P.J. Tanner is a good skater, but not a figure skating.
Ice hockey is where Tanner excels athletically, and he’ll be leading Viewmont into the national high school championships later this month in Florida.
"She wanted me to play hockey," Tanner said. "Actually had me skating since I was 4."
Viewmont finished second at state to Judge Memorial, but it’ll be the Vikings who will head southeast after Judge elected not to represent Utah this year.
Tanner, who started the season listed as a defenseman, has scored 27 goals. According Viewmont coach Brian Acord, Tanner combines the goal-scoring qualities of a top offensive player with the tenacity and toughness of a defender.
"He hustles, he’s big," Acord said. "One of the worst things you can do is to try to check him when he has the puck. P.J. is an amazing kid. He’s been on our varsity since he was a freshman."
The physical department isn’t the only area where Tanner excels. He’s also the senior class president at Viewmont.
"I love being with everybody at school — everything about Viewmont," said Tanner, who will play hockey at Utah State next year. "This is irreplaceable. Viewmont is very supportive — 300 to 500 people at every game. It’s great being the captain of the team and seeing that kind of support."
On the ice, Acord says that the qualities that have put Tanner in student leadership positions are easy to see.
"He’s always trying to make the team cohesive," Acord said. "He’s reaching out to the freshmen and those that might be off by themselves."
And while this might be the time of year for some older students to be making their way to Florida for a spring break from school, Tanner is more than happy to be playing hockey again.
The high school national championships will take place March 20 to 24 in Coral Gables.
"I thought I was never going to put on a [Viewmont] jersey again," Tanner said.
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