posted by dpm on 01/27/2009
Chatting it up in isolation photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
For the second year in a row, the USA Climbing Adult Sport Climbing Nationals returned to the Momentum Climbing Gym in Salt Lake City, Utah. Taking place on the same weekend as the Winter Outdoor Retailer's Trade Show, where climbing companies and other outdoor industry members were showcasing their newest line of products, the competition drew some of the best climbers in the country who were there to represent their sponsors at both events. The field was varied, with climbers of all ages and backgrounds. The event showcased not only the experience and composure of the usual competitive sport climbing crowd, but also the creative approach of outdoor climbers, and power of boulderers.
Sasha Digiulian climbing in the finals photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
In the women's category, the regulars like Emily Harrington, Paige Claassen, Tiffany Hensley, Sasha DiGiulian, and Audrey "Judo" Gawrych all made it out to SLC. Accompanying them was a group of girls who usually stick to the bouldering wall. Alex Puccio, Sydney McNair, and even Lisa Rands, who was competing in her first rope comp, rounded out the field. The qualifying round consisted of two routes climbed back to back, with only 6 minutes rest in between.
Audrey Gawrych sets up to grapple with a feature photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
The first route seemed to pose no problem to any of the competitors, all of them topping rather easily. Performance on the second route would be the deciding factor. At the end of the day, the group of finalists included: Emily Harrington, Paige, Alex, Sasha, Sydney, Lisa, Judo, and Mykael Ann McGinley. The only surprise was the early elimination of Tiffany Hensley, continental champion, who fell low on qualifier two due to pain from tendonitis in one of her elbows. First place was up for grabs as Emily, Paige and Alex had all sent both qualifiers. Alex , however, was unable to clip the chains because she had passed a quickdraw below. The rest of the females had all come extremely close to finishing the route as well.
Julian Bautista shoes up photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
For the men's category, the turnout was impressive, with 23 competitors climbing in Saturday's qualifiers. Defending champion Chris Sharma was not present this year, but other big names such as Dave Graham, Joe Kinder, and Ethan Pringle made up for the absence. Among the field was also a crew of young talent such as Gabor Szekely, Jon Cardwell, Michael and Julian Bautista, as well as a group of boulderers like Carlo Traversi and Mark Hobson. Qualifiers for the men were a little more difficult than for the women. 14 of the 23 competitors completed Qualifier One, which pitted the guys against pumpy climbing leading into a big dyno followed by more pumpy moves to the finish. Qualifier Two was even more endurance-based with no spots to shake out and rest. After all was said and done, three men had topped out both climbs, Ethan, Carlo, and Jon Siegrist, another first-timer in the difficulty comp scene (though his performance is not so surprising as he has climbed 5.14c!). The five remaining finalists were Julian, Dave, Ian Dory, Joe, and Ryan Sewell.
Ethan Pringle keeps it locked down tight photo photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
The setters had their work cut out for them for Sunday's finals. With two girls and three guys tied for first, they would have to set routes that cleanly separated each respective field to avoid a superfinal round. Chief routesetter Kevin Branford decided to do that by "switching it up a bit." So when the finalists emerged from iso to preview the routes, it was the men that found themselves staring at the slab while women were sent over to the steep side.
Alex Puccio gunning up the steep headwall photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
Sasha Digiulian flashes a smile photo by Gabor Szekely
The female finals route was designed by first-time event setter Kyle McFarland who presented the girls with a sea of red holds up the steeper side of the Momentum gym's 50 foot overhang. McFarland had three objectives: test the girls' sequencing abilities, have them get to the upper section of the route, and try to separate the field as cleanly as possible. The girls put on quite a show, with the top five falling within three moves of the finish. Alex, Sasha (the youngest finalist) and Sydney all fell in a powerful, long move with Alex missing the hold, and Sasha and Sydney touching the "usable surface."
The long move photo by Gabor Szekely
Paige Claassen, climbed super smooth and relaxed to that point, powered through with different beta, grabbed the elusive hold, matched, before falling in the next movement. The stage was set for Emily, last year's winner, and Emily didn't disappoint the crowd. Hesitating a little before the section that had stumped the other competitors, with the crowd cheering loudly, she launched for the next hold, throwing for the one after, and jumping to the finish jug, just barely letting it slip from her fingers. It was an inspiring performance.
Paige Claussen compresses for for the lunge photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
The men's finals was no less exciting. Needless to say, the slab was a bit of a shocker. After having 3 men top both qualifiers, Kevin Branford, decided to step it up a notch for the finals. The route began with about 20 feet of hard 12 slab, leading up into a BIG (though technically not too hard) dyno, and then a powerful, bouldery finish. The slab and dyno thwarted half the field, while the remaining four competitors were spread out in the final 15 or so feet of the route. Dave Graham established a high point early on. Employing rather unusual tactics (as always), Dave gunned for the top a muerte, falling only three moves from the finish, and getting the crowd psyched again after the early falls of the first three climbers.
Dave gettin' giggy on the upper boulder problem photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
Neither Jon nor Julian were able to surpass Dave, so it would be up to Ethan and Carlo to try and send the climb. Although Ethan looked calm and relaxed through the entire route, he slipped before reaching Dave's high point. Rather unfortunate. Carlo, well known boulderer, climbing in his first difficulty competition as well, moved confidently and with good rhythm, latching on to the hold Dave just missed, and falling in the next, impossibly far figure-four move. Having entered the comp hoping for a win, Carlo was psyched to pull it off.
Carlo Traversi styling to his first place finish photo by Nate Young www.cruxphoto.com
Overall, the event was a relative success. A little more publicity, for instance, may have helped draw in a larger crowd. Competitions in difficulty in the US are still not quite as far along as in some other countries, but there is definitely progress being made. When asked about her experience, Emily Harrington (very well-traveled and experienced in the competitive climbing scene) was really happy with how the event turned out. The routesetting team and USA Climbing were pleased as well. Hopefully next year they can make it even better!
1. Emily Harrington
2. Paige Claassen
3. Sasha DiGiulian
4. Sydney McNair
5. Alex Puccio
6. Audrey Gawrych
7. Lisa Rands
8. Mykael Ann McGinley
1. Carlo Traversi
2. Dave Graham
3. Ethan Pringle
4. Julian Bautista
5. Jonathan Siegrist
6. Ian Dory