2017-06-15 / Sports

Climbing higher

Three youngsters qualify for climbing tournament in San Francisco
By Jonathan Andrade


BY THE BEARD OF ZEUS!—Local rock climbers, from left, Maddie Russo, Harry Robinson and Aidan Lam will compete at the USA Climbing: Sport and Speed Youth Divisional Championship this weekend in San Francisco. “They have the potential to go on to nationals,” coach Emily Redfield said of the three climbers. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers BY THE BEARD OF ZEUS!—Local rock climbers, from left, Maddie Russo, Harry Robinson and Aidan Lam will compete at the USA Climbing: Sport and Speed Youth Divisional Championship this weekend in San Francisco. “They have the potential to go on to nationals,” coach Emily Redfield said of the three climbers. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers In the hit song, “Views,” rapper Drake sings “It’s only up from here, I promise, you just gotta wait.”

The wait is almost over for three athletes on the youth climbing team at Boulderdash Indoor Rock Climbing in Thousand Oaks.

Maddie Russo, Aidan Lam and Harry Robinson will scale the walls at the USA Climbing: Sport and Speed Youth Divisional Championship on June 17 and 18 at Mission Cliffs in San Francisco.

“I’m excited to see what the walls are like because every gym is different,” said Harry, a 10-yearold who just completed the fourth grade at Viewpoint School. “I like how there’s always different climbs. You’re not just doing the same thing over and over again like you would in other sports.”


VERTICAL LIMIT—Maddie Russo, 18, scales a wall at Boulderdash gym in Thousand Oaks on June 13. VERTICAL LIMIT—Maddie Russo, 18, scales a wall at Boulderdash gym in Thousand Oaks on June 13. Aidan, an incoming freshman at Oak Park High, said he’s looking forward to the competition, especially since he’ll be reunited with distant climbing friends.

“I just like going out and climbing,” Aidan said. “You make a lot of friends that don’t live around you. When you go to competition, you get to talk.”

Russo, a Calabasas resident who is bound for the University of Oregon in the fall, will be competing in her third and final youth divisional since picking up the sport five years ago.

“I’m trying to make it to the second day to hopefully qualify for nationals,” the 18-year-old said.


NEXT LEVEL—Aidan Lam, 14, of Oak Park reaches for the next grip while climbing a wall at Boulderdash Indoor Rock Climbing gym in Thousand Oaks earlier this week. NEXT LEVEL—Aidan Lam, 14, of Oak Park reaches for the next grip while climbing a wall at Boulderdash Indoor Rock Climbing gym in Thousand Oaks earlier this week. The USA Climbing: Sport and Speed Youth National Championships are slated for July 13-16 in Kennesaw, Ga.

Russo, who recently graduated from Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks, said she never thought an infatuation with the climbing walls at local fairs would turn into a full-fledged addiction.

“When I realized I could do it as a competitive sport, I got really excited,” she said. “I signed up right away.”

Russo, who trains five days a week, said she enjoys seeing people of all ages partake in the sport.

“It’s something that’s really inclusive for everyone,” she said. “We have kids on the team that are super young and doing amazing. It’s really cool to be able to see anyone excel at it. If you put your mind to it, you’ll be able to do it.”

Aidan said he fell in love with the sport after trying it during his fifth birthday party. The now 14-year-old was a natural.

“I used to climb trees a lot after school, to the point where my friends would come out and look for me in the trees,” he said. “It’s just one of those things you have a liking for. It’s fun and there’s a lot of nice people.”

Aidan is now a seasoned veteran in the sport, but he said it took time to build the confidence to trust his hands and feet.

“The mental part is a big part of it,” he said. “If you’re climbing and you get to points on the wall that are kind of scary, that’s the hardest part.

“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking.”

Harry, an Agoura resident who also does parkour in his free time, agreed that mental fortitude is invaluable in climbing.

“It’s hard to focus on one thing, but in climbing, there are many different things you have to focus on,” he said. “Coach always gives us tips on what to do, like getting your footwork better, learning what body position to be in and just overall practice.”

Emily Redfield, a 24-year-old Santa Barbara native; Jacob Catama, a 24-year-old from Thousand Oaks; and Justin Janik, a 21-yearold Oaks Christian graduate who played boys’ lacrosse in high school, are the climbing coaches.

Redfield said she’s glad to see the climbers thrive during competitions.

“They already had potential,” the coach said. “All we do as coaches is help them see that and help build their self-esteem.”

The climbers will attempt two to three climbs on the first day. The top-20 climbers in each age group advance to the second day of the tournament. The top spots are decided by how high up the course the climber can get. Each grip the climbers reach earns one point.

The local athletes are ready for the challenge.

“I just hope they have fun and try the best that they can do,” Redfield said. “I know they have the potential to go on to nationals. I just hope they see that as well.”

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