There was a time when Lynnwood Royals’ swimmer Faith Murray hated being in the water.
Murray suffers from a rare bone disease called chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis, also known as CRMO, a condition that causes bone inflammation, lesions and pain. The sophomore first developed recognizable symptoms of the disease at age 4 when she woke up one morning with what turned out to be two collapsed vertebrae in her neck.
Since then, CRMO has affected Murrays’ lower back, both knees, both ankles, numerous toes, a tibia, fibula, femur and clavicle; the aliment has also brought with it pain that can come in overpowering waves.
Murray has had numerous surgeries and treatments for CRMO over the past few years, including one that just happened to require pool rehab. “Hated it at first,” Murray said of being in the water. But that time in the pool was the genesis of her interest in the sport of swimming.
“I went to a non-competitive team and it was just kind of for fun with my friends,” Murray recalled. “And then they started having meets and that’s when I think it sparked this competitiveness in me. And I love it now.”
Last year, as a high school freshman, Murray joined the Royals girls swim squad and is continuing this year as a sophomore — and winning many of her 100 yard races along the way. Now Murray hopes to make a splash this week at the District 1 3A Girls Swimming and Diving Championship set for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9, in Snohomish.
While Murray wears a smile when competing, swimming doesn’t come without some risks. While the pain from CRMO can be unbearable — “Everyday we don’t know what it’s going to be; it could be good, it could be bad,” Murray said — there’s also the chance that Murray could crack or snap a bone from being active, something that happened last year while racing.
“It showed up last year in one of my meets and I was like, ‘hey, my toes’ hurting’ and it popped,” Murray explained. “And it ended up everytime I pushed off the wall they would break.”
Even before the trouble with her toes last season, CRMO had forced Murray into a wheelchair for much of her time in middle school and then as a freshman at Lynnwood High; she would even use it at Royals’ swim meets: rolling up to the pools’ edge, sliding out and then climbing onto the starting platform with assistance from teammates when it was time to race.
Murray is feeling well enough this fall to ditch the wheelchair — she has also been able to swim more events for the Royals.
“I started out loving freestyle because last year that’s ultimately the only stroke that I could swim,” Murray explained. “This year physically I’ve I had the ability to do different strokes. I now swim the 100 back and have still kept my love of freestyle.”
Royals’ girls swim Coach Tracy Dostert is appreciative to have Murray part of the squad, not just for her leadership and inspiration, but for the sophomore’s ability and versatility.
“We work together; she tells me what’s happening with her body, how she’s feeling, and then I make a decision where I need her for the team, definitely taking into consideration how she’s feeling,” Dostert said.
While qualifying for the state championship meet in the 100 Yard Freestyle or the 100 Yard Backstroke is a goal for Murray, the sophomore sees it only as a longshot this season — yet it’s still in the back of her mind.
“Swimming means so much to me,” Murray explained. “Just to be able to get to that level of competitiveness and quality, I think that would be really awesome. I’m looking at it right now and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get there (this year), but that’s OK. I have two more years and I’m good with that; I can wait. If that means I get it senior year, I will wait as long as possible.”
With state likely out of reach right now, Murray has her sights set on the district meet this Friday and Saturday.
“Just getting a really good PR (personal record) at districts — I think that would be really awesome,” Murray said.
Murray has even looked ahead at possibly swimming at the college level after graduating from Lynnwood in 2022. And coming from a family of religious faith, Murray is currently eyeing BYU as a college of choice.
“Last summer I actually went to a university swim camp at BYU,” Murray said. “Their swim team is awesome and their coach was super supportive. I think that just is an inspiration to me; maybe after high school I think that would be really cool.”
Murray’s biggest fan maybe her own mom, who sees a competitive nature in her daughter that works both in the pool and in her struggle against CRMO. “There’s a lot of fire in this girl. She’s like, ‘I’m going to conquer this,’” Libby Murray said.
And while Libby roots her daughter on during Royals’ swim meets, she keeps a simple perspective of gratitude each day despite Murray’s plight.
“I’m just grateful every time she wakes up and she stands up and she walks across the room,” Libby Murray concluded. “I’m grateful for every moment; I’m grateful for every moment she gets in the pool, whether she PR’s or whether she’s just swimming, to me I just feel it’s a gift for her to do that.”
— By Doug Petrowski