By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Small but strong, Sidney Trinidad finds a foothold. She reaches up with a muscled arm. She finds a hold, then another, on the climbing wall.
At Vertical World, a climbing gym in Everett, the 13-year-old is in her comfort zone.
It’s where Sidney’s confidence shines, even when — tethered and wearing a harness — she climbs high and higher, working her way across the gym ceiling.
“It’s just really fun. It’s something I’m good at,” said Sidney, who lives in Arlington and attends Post Middle School.
She started climbing at 8. Her father, Chris Trinidad, said his daughter has won five national championships at USA Climbing events. In 2009, she was featured in a Herald article. A member of the Everett Vertical World climbing team, she’s at home in the gym.
Her skill recently took Sidney out of her element.
In late April, she and her mother, Lisa Grannell, spent a whirlwind weekend at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Sidney will be featured on “Figure it Out,” an updated version of the Nickelodeon game show first popular in the 1990s. Her episode airs at 7 tonight on the Nickelodeon cable channel.
“I bet you never thought you’d be on a game show,” Chris Trinidad said to Sidney on Monday at Vertical World. “That really came out of the blue,” he said.
In new episodes of “Figure it Out,” stars of other Nickelodeon series try to guess young contestants’ talents.
“Giving kids a TV platform to showcase their quirky personal talents is core to the fun of ‘Figure it Out,’ ” said Marjorie Cohn, Nickelodeon’s president of development and original programming, in a statement introducing the show. “Figure it Out” premiered June 11.
A panel of four actors from Nickelodeon series — including “iCarly,” “Big Time Rush” and “Victorious” — tries to guess the talents of two contestants. Panelists ask yes or no questions, and are bombarded by messy clues. For each round in which the panel can’t guess the skill, contestants win prizes.
“If they guess, you get slimed,” said Sidney, referring to green goo that was a show signature in the ’90s.
Kids take home a grand prize if they stump the panel to the end. They also get to demonstrate their talents. “After they did the segment, they brought in a portable wall and she climbed it,” Grannell said.
A young auctioneer, a martial arts champion and a pogo-stick jumper are also being featured on “Figure it Out,” according to Wendy Zocks, a Nickelodeon spokeswoman.
Before Sidney’s episode airs, the family is contractually barred from revealing whether she was a winner. Prizes aren’t sent until well after the air date, Grannell said.
Sidney didn’t go looking for the TV spotlight. Chris Trinidad said the show’s producers contacted USA Climbing to find a young champion.
“Kids can submit via online submissions, where they describe their talent, and we contact their parents if we think their talent might be appropriate for the show,” Magda Liolis, the “Figure it Out” executive producer, said by email. Liolis said most contestants are found by producers searching the Internet for videos, or by contacting organizations that work with kids.
Sidney had fun being on camera and meeting other contestants. She was in the audience when other episodes were filmed. “I’m in the crowd a lot,” she said.
Now it’s back to her world, where the ingredients of success are ropes and rocks, skill and strength. She’s little more than 5 feet tall and weighs under 100 pounds, but Sidney has already made it big in climbing. For her age group, she’s been a champion in boulder, speed and sport categories. Her Vertical World team is sponsored by Evolv, a company that makes rock-climbing shoes.
One of Sidney’s coaches, 28-year-old Josh Hodges, explained why she has more on her mind than winning a game show.
”Nationals are in Atlanta in July,” he said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.