A Mountain Top View
When my husband and I had been married for six months, we took a ski trip to Colorado with his family. My husband had been skiing once before and loved it. I had never had a pair of skis on my feet, but he ran through the basics on the plane ride to Steamboat Springs and assured me I would be a natural. He was so certain of my innate ability that he told me to skip the bunny slope and took me straight to the top of the mountain on my very first attempt. His first clue should have been that his new bride face planted in the snow while trying to get off the ski lift and barely missed being hit in the back of the head by the next chair that was coming up fast.
Gathering my composure, my poles, and blowing snow out of my nose, I managed to get to the starting point. My husband once again reviewed the ABCs of skiing in about thirty seconds, and we took off. My take off might have lasted as long as the ski lesson I’d just been given. For most of the next hour, I was busting my rear end on the snow or eating it. I had just about passed the point of irritation when my new husband laughed and said, “I just can’t understand why this is so hard for you. Everybody else can do it.” Let’s just say that in that one moment, on the side of a mountain in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, our honeymoon phase came to a screeching halt. Please understand that, as a personal rule, I rarely let a profane word leave my mouth. To this day, 25 years later, my husband still swears he didn’t know a human being could scream so many cuss words in rapid fire sequence. I sort of don’t remember that part (or I choose not to), but I do remember he removed his ski goggles and was looking at me like he didn’t recognize this woman that he had vowed to love and cherish. As if sent by the Lord, ski patrol showed up from out of nowhere and asked me if I needed a ride down the mountain. Without hesitation, I jumped on the back of that snow mobile and off I went, back to the condo, vowing never to ski again. I’m just not built for it.
Little did I know that while I was losing my mind on the side of a Colorado mountain, a six-year-old girl named Sonya Garrison from my hometown of Atlanta, Texas, was just beginning her educational journey. She excelled from the very beginning and in a few years, she was walking the halls of Atlanta High School.
Sonya says her dad was an engineer, and she always thought she would follow in his footsteps until the day she walked into Alisa Morris’ anatomy class. Sonya quickly came to love the subject of anatomy and physiology, and, under Mrs. Morris’ instruction, she began to consider the medical field as a career path. “I can tell you that Sonya is one of the best kids that has come through AHS,” said Morris. Through her high school anatomy class, Sonya was also chosen to attend the Medical Applications of Science for Health (MASH) program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Texarkana. Each summer, UAMS offers a free two-week summer enrichment program where academically qualified students go through an application process and are then hand selected to attend. MASH allows rising high school juniors and seniors to shadow health professionals in Texarkana and attend workshops that enhance their desire to pursue medical professions. MASH sealed the deal for Sonya, and she set her sights on the medical field.
After high school graduation in 2008, Sonya enrolled in the University of Arkansas where she received a Bachelor of Medical Science and Healthcare in 2011. From there, she studied as a student at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center and became a Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) in 2014. Following graduation, she stayed at UT Southwestern in Dallas and completed her residency training. With degrees hanging on the wall and a ton of academic success under her belt, Sonya began her physical therapy career by doing contract work where a therapist can gain a wide variety of experience while providing patient care in hospitals, rehabs, outpatient clinics, and other settings. While Sonya gained valuable experience in her physical therapy contract jobs, she wasn’t satisfied. She was looking for something bigger, something out of the ordinary, something challenging.
In the middle of finding her niche and gaining experience in the physical therapy world, Sonya Garrison changed her last name when she married Tyler Greider. Tyler hails from Garland, Texas and was super supportive of his wife’s job search. Newly married, Sonya’s job hunt led her to apply for a physical therapy position at Howard Head Sports Medicine, in Vail, Colorado. She got the job and in 2016, the Texas duo picked up and moved to Vail, Colorado, sight unseen. Sonya did physical therapy in an outpatient setting when she arrived but was told that she would be given a year to become an experienced skier and snowboarder. If she mastered those two things, she would use her much needed PT skills on the United States snowboard cross team. At this point in her life, Sonya had never skied, much less snowboarded. She wasn’t even sure what snowboard cross was. To nobody’s surprise, she took the challenge head on and became an avid skier and snowboarder, and, as promised, the physical therapist from Texas took her therapy skills straight to the athletes on the slopes.
Today, Sonya Garrison Greider is the Orthopedic Residency Coordinator and lead physical therapist for Howard Head Sports, where she concentrates her efforts on the Olympic snowboard cross team. She starts her morning at the top of the snow-covered course while the athletes begin their training. Sonya and her staff perform physical therapy on everything from cramps to injuries right there on the mountain. If an athlete needs her, she skis or snowboards to wherever the athlete is on the slope and offers her skills. After morning training, she oversees the routine PT recovery sessions that must be performed daily to keep the athletes in peak physical condition. Sonya also performs physical therapy treatment for back, hip, and knee pain as needed since the joints of these snowboarders take an immense pounding daily. Sonya and her staff often practice PT on athletes that are rehabbing from surgery on their return to a competitive level. Dr. Greider and her physical therapy staff travel all over the world with the snowboard cross team to competitions where she manages the team’s therapy. This year’s travel includes the 2022 Olympic games in Beijing, China, where the US snowboard cross team members will compete for gold. Tune in on February 9 and 10 to watch these athletes do their thing.
By the way, in case you don’t know, snowboard cross is an event where four to six competitors race down a course at the same time. The course is very narrow for there to be that many snowboarders at one time, but that’s part of the thrill. There are difficult turns, different jumps, drops and very steep sections of the course that challenge the abilities of each snowboarder. It is action packed, to say the least! This year’s US Olympic snowboard cross mixed team includes Faye Gulini, Lindsey Jacobellis, Stacy Gaskill, Meghan Tierney, Nick Baumgartner, Hagen Kearney, Alex Deibold, and Mick Dierdorff. Listen for these names as these athletes are sure to do some amazing things on the snow in Beijing.
Sonya said that the snowboard cross athletes rarely get as much of the spotlight as the ski or regular snowboarding teams, but her athletes work just as hard. She explained that almost all the cross athletes hold down regular jobs on top of their daily training requirements. The team members do everything from construction, cutting timber, to any other odd job they can find to make ends meet. These are tough competitors willing to do whatever they have to do to achieve their snowy, mountaintop dream. “They work so hard on and off the course. So, when they stand up there on a podium, whether it be for the Olympics or any other competition, to see that is the very best part of my job.”
Dr. Sonya Greider could not be prouder of the snowboard cross team. Her excitement and respect for the team were both clear. She is also very aware that she has an awesome job but has not forgotten her roots and her very supportive family. She married a Texas boy, so that keeps her grounded, but she says she misses her parents, Miles and Jodi Garrison and her sister and brother-in-law, Sara and Ross Heath and their three kids. But she knows they are all cheering her on from Atlanta. A certain high school anatomy teacher is also beaming with pride. “Sonya is just the nicest, smartest, most amazing young woman. She always knew that she wanted to do something awesome, and she is just living that life,” Alisa Morris said.
After the Olympic games, Sonya is going to take a couple of days to herself and then she’ll go back to physical therapy. “Pain doesn’t stop,” she said. Her profession and her work ethic demand a lot from her, but she loves every minute. From the piney woods of northeast Texas to the snow-covered mountains in Colorado and now across the world in China, Dr. Sonya Garrison Greider was most definitely built for this!