It took 13 years for Tim McCall to get to the perch he arrived at two weeks ago.
The Watertown High sophomore, who began snowboarding at age 2, looked out at his family, friends, and fellow competitors from the medal stand at the USASA Snowboarding Nationals in Frisco, Colorado.
He had enjoyed that view in local and regional competitions, but never Nationals. He had finished ninth while qualifying for the event as a 13-year-old two years ago. But now he was on the medal stand, wearing the silver, after his second-place finish in the 14- and 15-year-old age division that combines all five snowboarding events.
“It was nice,” he said. “I could see my family in the crowd, my friends, a lot of the people in my series from throughout all the different states. One of my friends had gotten up there the last time and I remembered thinking how cool it would be if I could do that.”
The finish capped a long winter of training on the weekends, and traveling to events, while also trying to keep up with school work. McCall had managed, doing some work in advance of competitions, and both coming into school early and staying late when necessary, but it was a test as he competed against snowboarders who attended winter academies that were structured around their training.
So McCall made a decision that went in line with how he planned for his entire year: he was going out of the sport on his terms at the end of the season.
It worked out that he got to go out pretty much on top.
“I decided this was my last year competing,” he said. “This was a tough winter. It was long. It was tiring. It was hard going away every weekend for an event, and then coming home Sunday night, and then waking up Monday not being at my best for school.
“We decided coming into the year that this was going to be it. I wanted to have fun with it and see how far I could get.”
McCall spend his weekends throughout the winter traveling to events in New Hampshire and New York, accumulating enough points to qualify. While some snowboarders concentrate in individual events, he went for the combined competition that includes slopestyle, halfpipe, boardercross, slalom and giant slalom.
“Halfpipe is my favorite,” he said. “But I don’t have one that I concentrate on specifically.”
While he said the qualifying was grueling this winter, he gained confidence through how he was able to score in all five events.
“Consistency is what made me be able to come out where I wanted and reach my goal of making it to Colorado,” he said. “It came from how many years I’ve been snowboarding and all the stuff I was able to learn from a lot of the great coaches that I had in the past. I wanted to take all that, put it together this year, and have fun with it.”
He said he began planning out the winter – and especially the Colorado trip – with his teachers well in advance, and thanked them for being accommodating to him making the most of the experience.
“They set it up where I wouldn’t get too far behind,” he said, “but in a way where I could focus on my goals while I was out there.”
In the end, he got to achieve them, and go make what may be his final memories of the sport competing on that stage ones all his own.
“It was a summary of my whole snowboarding career,” he said. “It was made up of a lot of hard work and I got to finish out doing it my way.”