Teen takes third out of 84

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: HUDSON HENRY - Graham Leib catches some air at Mt. Hood Meadows.A Lakeridge High School sophomore snagged a trophy during the Oregon Interscholastic Snowboard Association State Championships.

Graham Leib, 16, placed third out of 84 students in the Banked Slalom finals. Athletes race up, around or down berms - banked snow - to complete the curvy course. The contenders in the tournament last month were plucked from a pool of hundreds during contests throughout the season.

“The two snowboarders who beat him were both seniors, which effectively makes him the fastest competing sophomore in the state,” said his father, Paul Leib.

The young man has been hitting the slopes since he was 5 years old. It’s a family affair. His 11-year-old brother, Shaun Leib, slides over the snow on skies, and his mom and dad also snowboard.

“I followed in my father’s footsteps,” Graham Leib said.

He said it feels amazing to be doing so well so early in his athletic career, competing against upperclassmen in the sport. He hopes to step into the top slot in the Banked Slalom Competition when he’s a senior.

“In the years to come, I’ll just keep getting better and better and better,” he said. “It just really feels good.”

Pushing himself to improve, he spends most weekends on Mount Hood when it has a white top or there’s a competition. He practices with his team on Thursdays at Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort from mid-December to mid-March.

Eating healthily is another way he fine-tunes his game. His mostly vegetarian parents serve a lot of salad and tofu at home, although he says he’s more of an omnivore. Some of his game is mental, fighting through the weariness that dogs him during the SUBMITTED PHOTO: SCOTT MORRISON - Graham Leib and Paul Leib went back-country snowboarding in January in the Kootenay region of British Columbia with two guides.

“I’m always tired,” he said.

To prepare for a race he gives the course a run-through while listening to hip-hop’s Wu-Tang Clan or hits from late rapper Tupac Shakur. Graham Leib also visualizes his downward glide before he faces off against the other snowboarders — and the clock. His best time was within less than a second of the first and second place winners during the state tournament, flying through the snowy obstacle course in 35.17 seconds.

“I just look forward to his junior and senior years,” said David Young, head coach of the Lakeridge snowboard team. “I think he could move past his third place in state. I think he could win.”

Young said in his 13 years coaching at Lakeridge he has only seen a few athletes show Leib’s prowess as a sophomore. His humble nature and devotion to the sport also make him stand out.

“I don’t see him in the lodge very much when everyone else is taking breaks and everything,” Young said. “He’s out there snowboarding.”

Graham Leib also is a member of the varsity baseball team and made Lakeridge’s honor roll last semester.

“We are very proud of him, to say the least,” Paul Leib said.

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