Competition Recap: 2017 USA Climbing Collegiate Nationals

Well, the 2017 Collegiate Climbing season has come and gone, and I’m back here in Berkeley with another Nationals under my belt.

After taking last year off, I decided to reenter the fray this season and commit to attending Collegiate Nationals for the first time since 2015. For those of you who don’t know how it works for the Collegiate circuit, you need to compete in one local competition to be eligible for Regionals, and you need to compete in Regionals to be eligible for Nationals. The Collegiate Series is still participation-based for now, but I imagine that will change over the next few years.

Much like my preparation for the 2016 Portland Boulder Rally, I spent the majority of the spring just trying to get a bit stronger, boulder as much as possible, and, most importantly, stay healthy. Despite a crazier-than-usual professional life throughout the spring, I found a way to climb 2-3 times a week at Ironworks, Great Western, Dogpatch, and Bridges. The variety definitely helped keep me motivated!

Climbing at GWPC in Oakland. Photo Credit: Mark Patana

For my local competition, I competed at Stanford University’s event this year and, as usual, it was really fantastic. The setting was awesome, and everything was so well-run. I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked, since I spent the evening before the comp celebrating the conclusion of the club roller hockey season with my teammates. Regardless, I climbed pretty well when all was said and done and finished 15th. We also had a pretty sizable crew of Cal Climbers out to the event, and it was great to see so many psyched Golden Bears throwing down.

The Cal Climbing crew at the Stanford Local.

Regionals was back at BaseCamp up in Reno this year, the same as it was in 2015. I didn’t have my best day and struggled a bit with the mental aspects of competitions. With that said, I felt super strong and was pulling pretty hard – but I wasn’t really sending as much as I should have. It was frustrating, but I did enough to somehow pull out an 8th place finish – one of my best performances to date.

A little blurry! Photo Credit: Charlotte Roh

In between Regionals and Nationals, things got really crazy in the lab, and I wasn’t able to devote as much time or energy to climbing as would have been ideal. I did enough to maintain though and felt like I had built some pretty solid power, and I managed to stay injury-free (for the most part). With the exception of some weird tightness in the PIP joint of my right middle finger and a lingering injury in my left wrist (first injured almost 5 years ago), I was as healthy as ever.

Skratch Labs has a monthly theme that us Taste Agents will reflect on and post about, and interestingly enough, the theme for April was #GetYourHeadSet. So I spent the week leading up to Nationals thinking about how I mentally prepared for and deal with competitions. You can see those posts over on my Instagram. It was really, really helpful.

Sometimes climbing is hard. Photo Credit: Mark Patana

So one week ago, I flew down to San Diego and got myself mentally prepared for qualifiers. On the day of qualifiers, I ate a great breakfast overlooking the beach in La Jolla with one of my best friends, Alex, and then had a lovely little lunch a few hours before qualifiers at a nice cafe in South Park (best neighborhood name ever!). Alex was awesome enough to not only let me sleep on his pull-out sofa, but also to drive me around all over San Diego!

Bouldering qualifiers were held at the Mesa Rim Training Center, and I was blown away at how cool the facility is. Incredible walls, tons of training space…I would spend so much time there if I lived in San Diego! Once I got checked in, I put my stuff down and commenced my normal warm-up routine. I wasn’t able to do any climbing before qualies started, but because of how warm it was inside (and outside), I felt good to go when the hour struck 4.

There were 40 total qualifier problems, and they all looked amazing…and REALLY hard. There were slab walls, vert walls, overhung walls…there was a little bit of everything, and with the exception of the first few climbs, they all looked quite challenging.

On my first climb of the day, on the 4th move of the climb, I felt my wrist pop really badly. I’ve had this happen before, and I immediately knew I couldn’t keep climbing. I was scared, angry, and frustrated, but I composed myself, taped up my wrist as well as I could, and got back on the wall. Not the best start to my day, but the tape really kept my wrist feeling good, and I was able to send that problem with no issue shortly after.

I focused my efforts on doing as many climbs between 20-30 as possible. But I knew that if I wanted any chance of being in the top 20 and, therefore, making finals, I would need to send at least one of the 30-40 problems and have a solid foundation of climbs otherwise.

Photo Credit: Alex Meyer

When all was said and done, I finished with climbs 26, 25, 24, 22, and 21 as my top 5. As expected, the climbs were all really challenging – but also fun and creative. I was happy with my results, and I felt as if I had left everything on the wall. I haven’t been that tired from a climbing competition in a long time! My mental game was also the best it’s ever been. With the exception of that injury scare in the beginning, I was dialed in mentally and felt like I was flowing when I really needed to be. I stayed relaxed and actually paced myself really well, and despite climbing for pretty much three hours straight, I somehow maintained that sense of focus the whole time.

I ended up placing 39th in bouldering out of around 170 competitors, by far my best result at any National competition. My goal was to finish in the top 40, and I just barely pulled it out! Once the list for finals competitors was released, I realized just how close I was to an even better day.

During qualifiers, I couldn’t send problems 23 and 29. On 23, I fell trying to match the finish hold 2 or 3 times, and no matter what I did, I just couldn’t finish (maybe those close calls at Regionals were a sign…). On 29, I fell on the second-to-last move on my flash attempt – a move I certainly should have controlled after sticking the hold and peeling off – but could never get back to the same highpoint despite many more attempts. No excuses, I just didn’t execute for whatever reason. But, had I sent those two problems, I would have finished 15 or 16 places higher and pushed for a spot in finals (since three of the top 20 bouldering qualifiers competed in sport or speed finals instead). This disappointed me at first since I’ve dreamed of making finals at a big comp like this for years. But, now with a week to reflect a bit more, it’s just motivated me even more since I now know that I can kinda keep up with some of these younger (and way stronger!) competitors.

Just moments before falling on my flash attempt. Photo Credit: Alex Meyer

Nationals was an incredible experience this year, and being back on the Collegiate Climbing circuit felt so good. San Diego is such a cool city, and I’m psyched that Nationals was there again! It was also really great to see some old friends from Earth Treks Rockville – Kerry and Claire both crushed super hard!

I’ve taken the last week off from climbing to relax a little bit and give my body some time to heal. But I’m getting antsy again, so I know I’ll be back in the gym really soon. There’s nothing super big coming up yet, so maybe I’ll actually take some time to train!

Of course, none of this would really be possible without my sponsors, Skratch Labs and Evolv. Because it was so hot in the training center, staying hydrated was more important than usual, and I drank over a liter of the Matcha + Lemons hydration mix. I usually don’t go through that much, even during comps, but I was definitely better off because of it! Also, this was my first big competition wearing the Agro, and I was amazed at how well they performed. There was one problem that involved a feet-first start with a double toehook, and it felt so comfy in the Agro. I’m humbled by both companies’ continued support of lil’ ol’ me, and I’m proud to be a representative of both brands.

Thanks for reading – stay stoked and climb on!


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