Better Boarding

Jan. 26, 2011, 3:02 a.m.
Better Boarding
Murray in her snowboard gear. She is taking time off from classes this quarter to pursue her passion for competitive snowboarding. (Courtesy of Lucyann Murray)

Lucyann Murray ’12 skips winter quarter to competitively snowboard

Lucyann Murray ’12 has loved and lived for snowboarding since childhood. Now she’s making bigger strides for the sport: she is taking winter quarter off to train. Since high school, Murray has struggled to balance tough classes with her training regimen and travel schedule. Now she is focused on finding out just how far she can push her competitive passion.

Murray is originally from Washington, D.C. She learned to snowboard at age 9 and started competing in freestyle events at 14 with the Wintergreen Snowboard Team in Virginia. When her family moved to Greenwich, Conn., after her freshman year of high school, Murray continued her devotion.

She joined the Stratton Mountain Snowboard Team in Vermont to compete regionally, despite the lengthy commute. Training with that team “opened my eyes to what I could be doing,” she said.

She faced setbacks, including tearing her ACL in the spring of her senior year of high school. But Murray was not discouraged.

“I believe there are a lot of barriers, but when you set your heart to something that is worth it, those barriers only make things more exciting, and I’m ready to take on those barriers with all I’ve got: sweat, tears, frustration and all,” she wrote in a blog post documenting her quarter away.

Murray entered Stanford with a goal: “I needed to focus on school and see if I got full recovery,” she said.

She succeeded, recovering enough to compete in national events her freshman year. Now, her recovery has progressed to the point where she does not even need to wear a knee brace while practicing.

Her return demanded hard work, including strength and conditioning training with Carl Paoli, founder of Naka Athletics, six days a week in San Francisco for the past year.

Paoli and Naka Athletics use a variety of techniques to prepare extreme athletes for the unusual moves they are expected to perform every day. For physical performance, they focus on basic gymnastics skills, weightlifting, track and field and trampoline training. They also apply nutrition knowledge to fuel the athletes for intense physical activity.

This kind of training will enable Murray to practice for more extended periods with greater ease. It “creates an awareness of how the body works that is really going to translate into all the skill she does,” Paoli said.

As to how strength training improved the condition of her injured knee, Murray said, “I don’t think I would be where I am without it.”

For her first two years on the Farm, Murray had to plan her academic schedule around a strenuous schedule of training and snowboarding competitions. She took no classes on Fridays and spent every Friday, Saturday and Sunday traveling to Lake Tahoe to participate on the Squaw Valley ski team. She lived with the Stanford ski team on the weekends.

Such restrictions limited her academic choices, and often she was unable to take the classes she either wanted or needed to take. She spent much of her time catching up with classes that she missed due to competitions and took many exams on the road.

“It wasn’t always easy, but it was definitely a learning experience,” Murray said.

She found a flexible home in the human biology program. With her major in order, Murray could complete all the necessary courses for winter ahead of time, allowing her to take this quarter to focus on her snowboarding and, as she says, “get a grasp on how far I can take it.”

With the support of her family, friends and coaches, Murray is currently practicing and living with her teammates on the Wasatch Project Grom Squad in Utah and training with coaches Ryan Bever and Dustin Linker. She is competing in freestyle snowboarding, which includes jumps and rails.

Her results in 2010 included third place at the Burton AM Series Halfpipe, ninth place at the Burton AM Series Slopestyle and third place at the USSA Revolution Tour Slopestyle.  Previously, she was named Red Bully Snow Warz Best Female Rider in 2009 and received first place at the Volcom Peanut Butter Rail Jam in 2008.

To keep her family, friends and supporters up to date on life away from Stanford, Murray has been keeping up her blog.

“This season,” she wrote there, “is about pushing boundaries, defying odds and dancing with dreams.”

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