As an adolescent, Stacia had three passions: attending school, cheering on the Denver Broncos with her father, and skiing. The first time she went skiing she was three, years before she would find herself on a snowboard and years before she would be the first woman named to the U.S. Snowboarding team in the 1994-1995 season.
“My mom always said I just loved it from the beginning,” remembered Stacia. “I had the opportunity to take lessons on weekends, but I really loved skiing because it brought me a connection with my dad.” Stacia’s dad was the first to introduce her to snow sports and their bond deepened on the slopes.
What drew Stacia to snowboarding? The speed was the biggest factor, but she also loved how “the mountain looked completely different on a snowboard. You can carve your snowboard down and leave your mark,” she said. “Snowboarding was a natural fit and stemmed from my passion for ski racing. My friends and I already knew how to race. All we had to do was learn how to snowboard. For women, the field was wide open and we could already read the course and go fast,” said Stacia. Stacia raced in all kinds of snowboarding, from the slalom and giant slalom to the parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom, to the half-pipe, while today’s snowboarders specialize in specific events.
“The girls in the house were amazing. I look ack on that time and I feel like I was in school with them for years..”Stacia Hookom Goolihar
What does a competitive snowboarder do when it comes time to pick a college? Stacia’s mom, Cynthia Bullinger Lashley, encouraged her to attend the University of Colorado and made a deal with her that she could take off the winter to compete. The balance was hard, but that didn’t take away from the joy of Staci’a first semester in the fall of 1993. During that semester, she went through recruitment and joined Alpha Phi. “The girls in the house were amazing. I look back on that time and I feel like I was in school with them for years, when, really, I was just there for bits and pieces of time between competitions and training, but I loved it.”
During the spring after she joined Alpha Phi, while she was competing she suffered an injury that blew out her knew. It was a season-ending injury but it was also the year they would name the U.S. Snowboarding team- and Stacia wanted to be on that team. Although she had not made it to the Games in 2006, she achieved great results- high enough to earn her funding, so she decided she would compete for one more year. She would close her competitive career on her own terms. In 20007, the World Championships brought her luck and she finished with her best placements in that event, grabbing the 8th overall spot in giant slalom and 5th in slalom, her personal bests in that particular competition.
Not only did she forge her own path, but Stacia did it twice- once entering the competition and once as she left it to explore other parts of life. “I am not a quitter, and the fact that my Olympic goal eluded me was hard,” she said. “I know I was good enough to have made it and believe I would have risen to the occasion had things aligned differently. I struggled with that for many years, wondering, ‘Did I waste my time?’” As a child, when her grandmother died of cancer, she remembers thinking she wanted to help cure cancer so others would not have to suffer. She took a job as a research assistant at MD Anderson Cancer Center, left for a more advanced role, and returned to MD Anderson through an elective rotation for her training. She found a job there when she was done with school and has been there ever since. Transitioning out of competition life was hard, but one of the most rewarding parts of her work today is the opportunity to be part of the patient’s care team, supporting them, cheering them on, and helping them heal.
What’s on the horizon for Stacia? Sometimes she thinks about registering for a snowboard race and competing for the fun of it. Maybe one day the family will move back to Colorado where she would like to teach her daughters to love ski racing. Creating opportunities for girls to engage in sports is high on her list, too. “I am content right now,” said Stacia…content to keep embracing life as she races into the next turn, goals at the ready and determination part of her DNA.