(More than a battle for top bunk)

by Eli Francovich (’15)

Hannah Tolson and Sara Griffith at Wild Walls Climbing Gym (Photo by Ryan Sullivan)

Hannah Tolson and Sara Griffith at Wild Walls Climbing Gym (Photo by Ryan Sullivan)

Sara Griffith and Hannah Tolson’s Marian Hall dorm room is proof of a tight-knit friendship. Photos of the two Gonzaga freshmen smiling. Two twin mattresses pushed together as one big bed. Shared clothing.

Maybe that’s not out of the ordinary for college roomies, but these two started their friendship as fierce competitors.

Tolson, 19, is from California; Griffith, 18, is from Arizona. Both are elite rock climbers who have gone to national and global competitions. Over years of competing, they often stood beside one another on the winners’ platform, taking first and second places – positions that might naturally make them adversaries.

But at the youth divisional sport climbing competition in 2015, Tolson and Griffith started making the transition from competitors to friends. Both young women knew the other was going to Gonzaga. Griffith says she started to drop hints that she wanted to room with Tolson, while Tolson says she was thinking the same thing.

“It was nice just having a really familiar face,” Tolson says. “It was huge,” Griffith adds.

Both women say knowing the other has eased the transition from high school to college, and from climbing in a structured team environment to more self-directed training. Still, the two women are different enough that Sara’s coach, Sarah Richardson, said she was hesitant when she first heard they would
be living together.

“I thought that they were going to be total opposites,” Richardson says. “I think putting (together) those two different athletes from two different teams was really a benefit to them.”

Now the two train together at Wild Walls, a climbing gym in Spokane. Although both women still get workouts and direction from their respective coaches, they rely on each other for motivation.

“I always say Hannah is the most competitive person I know, followed closely by me,” Tolson says. “I don’t want to compete against her because I want her to win, but I want to win more.”

Luckily, the two will not have to compete against each other anytime soon. Tolson has aged out of the youth circuit, while Griffith is still eligible. However, the time will come when the two roommates will face off again.

“We’ve recently avoided competing against each other,” Tolson says, adding, “We know we won’t like each other for two hours.”

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