In 2013, Kelly Marren was one of the top 30 female snowboarders in the world, but after competing at or near the highest levels of her sport for the better part of a decade, Marren decided to retire from competitive snowboarding.
So what does an Olympic-caliber athlete do after giving up the sport she loved since she was a little girl? She competes in triathlons, naturally.
“I’m still a competitor when it comes down to it,” said Marren, 22, who graduated from Menlo School in 2010 and is graduating from Stanford next week with a degree in science technology and society, with a concentration in energy engineering.
“I did want to be doing something competitive (after retiring from snowboarding). … When I officially hung up the (snowboarding) boots, about a month later I said, ‘This triathlon thing looks like fun.’ I like having big goals and meeting them. Triathlons seemed just crazy enough and fun.”
Marren joined the Stanford triathlon club about a year ago and last weekend she competed in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, finishing with a time of 3 hours, 29 minutes and 52 seconds — eight seconds ahead of her goal of 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Not bad for an athlete coming off a serious — almost catastrophic — knee injury. In 2012, Marren was working on a snowboarding trick called — ironically enough — the crippler. When she landed wrong one time, she tore her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, as well as the medial and lateral meniscus, in her right knee.
“Everyone, in retrospect, said, ‘Why would you try that trick? It’s called the crippler for a reason,” Marren said with a laugh.
But Marren ramped up her physical therapy and was back riding her snowboard six months after surgery and was back competing two months after that. She finished 12th at the world championships in 2013 and thought about competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, but less than a year after knee surgery, she did not feel prepared to make a run at Winter Games in Sochi, Russia this past February.
“I can say I made a really big push and I worked super hard to get back on my board, to get back and compete with my friends,” Marren said. “It didn’t come together (for Sochi), but it was heck of a journey.”
After coming up just short of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and with her focus on her studies at Stanford, Marren figured it was time to turn the page on her competitive snowboarding life.
“I always knew I would move on from snowboarding,” Marren said. “It has been amazing. I was 21 years old and had traveled to 21 countries. … It’s been awesome. I don’t think I wanted to put my head down for another four years (to try for the 2020 Winter Olympics).”
But competing at such a high level left a void in Marren’s life, hence, the decision to give triathlons a go.
“Who knows how it happened?” Marren said. “I had no interest (in triathlons). I’ve never been a good runner, didn’t know how to swim (competitively). If you would have told me two years ago I would be competing in Escape … I would have laughed you out of the room.”
Yet there she was, aboard the San Francisco Belle in San Francisco Bay Sunday morning, waiting her turn to dive into the chilly waters to begin the Escape from Alcatraz. When asked what the easiest part of the race for her was, she turned the question around.
“You mean, what was the least difficult? Because I don’t think there is anything easy about it,” Marren said. “It all turned out great. I was definitely nervous, but as soon as I was jumping in the water, I was excited, having fun. It was a pretty cool experience.”
With a thirst for training and a need to feed her competitive side, however, triathlons seem to be the perfect remedy to her snowboarding retirement.
And while Marren says she hasn’t thought about becoming a professional triathlete, she is already thinking about her next race.
“I started researching Ironmans,” Marren said. “There’s a half Ironman in Mexico this summer.
“[My competitiveness] is a problem. Ask my family.”
Nick Bisconti, a water polo player at Menlo School who is just wrapping up his junior year, made his debut with the U.S. National Water Polo Team Wednesday night at University of the Pacific in the first of a four-match exhibition series with water polo heavyweight Serbia.
Bisconti is one of two high school players on the team, joining Nic Carniglia of Lodi, who will play for Cal in the fall.
Bisconti was one of six junior members to be invited in March to train with the U.S. National Team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, helping him secure a spot for the exhibition matches against Serbia.
The rest of the exhibition matches are: 7 p.m. June 4 at U.C. Davis; 3 p.m. June 7 at Cal and 3 p.m. June 8 at Stanford.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. You follow him on Twitter@CheckkThissOutt.