Several locals qualify for championships at big event in new climbing facility
EAGLE — It’s safe to say the town is now attracting a new type of visitor.
Members of the Colorado climbing community have been heading into town for various events since Eagle Climbing + Fitness opened in the fall of 2018, and over the weekend those guests visited from Aspen, Telluride, Steamboat and across the Western Slope as high school athletes from all over the region attempted to qualify for the state championships taking place at the end of the month.
One hundred ten athletes competed, and with coaches and parents, more than 200 people were in Eagle for the events.
“We have the most competitors in the entire state in our region,” said local coach Larry Moore.
MOUNTAIN BIKING MODEL
High school climbing was recently re-organized into various regions following the formation of the American Scholastic Climbing League in May.
Moore helped participate in the creation of the league, which seeks to connect all high school climbers in Colorado in an atmosphere of positive competition.
“The point is to emphasize community, perseverance, trust, and support,” according to the league’s philosophy. “The League is not about winning or preparing individual students for the Olympics. It is about teams specifically connected to high schools working together to support student growth, camaraderie, and healthy connection with other students also embracing the sport.”
Moore said the league was created in a similar fashion to the Colorado High School Cycling League.
“We talked about creating a more formalized governing body that could be utilized throughout the nation,” Moore said. “Not be a CHSAA sport, but more along the lines of what high school mountain biking did.”
This is a familiar model in Eagle, where the Colorado High School Cycling League has hosted conference and state championship-level events in recent years.
Town of Eagle Special Events Coordinator Jeremy Gross said after seeing how many guests have been brought into town from High School mountain biking events, the Eagle climbing competition was an obvious choice to support with funds from the town’s special events budget, similar to Eagle’s support of Colorado High School Cycling League events. Gross said those guests are Eagle’s target audience.
“The town of Eagle has been supporting high school athletic events for many years, and we’ve seen great success with the other programs that have come in and been supported in their ability to bring a new audience to town and show these people with similar interests and values what the town of Eagle has to offer,” Gross said. “With the success that we’ve seen over those other events, we wanted to support the new climbing gym with their first-of-this-kind event in the valley.”
Moore said the support from the town of Eagle has helped out tremendously as the gym has been able to hit the ground running in its first few months of operation.
“It went well,” Moore said. “We did a special for the competitors and their families to stay the night in Eagle and climb again on Sunday, some people were driving 4-5 hours to get there.”
Several local climbers qualified for the state championships in the varsity division.
Benji Dantas, a freshman at Battle Mountain High School, finished first, which qualified him for the state championships at Ubergrippen in Denver on Feb. 23. Dantas has also qualified for the USA Climbing Youth National Championships for Bouldering, which takes place this weekend in Bend, Oregon.
Amalia Manning, a junior at Battle Mountain High School, also qualified for the state championship on Feb. 23, finishing first on Saturday while her sister, Freshman Aiden Manning, finished right behind her in second, also qualifying for the state championships. Senna Sink, a junior at Vail Christian, also qualified, finishing fourth.
“Our local kids dominated,” Moore said. “Four athletes, two freshman, two juniors, going to state championships as varsity competitors.”
While those athletes will be traveling by car to Denver for the championships this year, Moore says in the future — if Eagle Climbing + Fitness is able to realize its goal as a climbing facility — there will be locals who won’t need to make that trip.
“Our goal is to work toward hosting the state championships,” Moore said.
After seeing the success of Saturday’s event, Moore believes the new, 7,500 square foot gym will be the perfect venue for major events like the state championships.
“We spread out the competitors throughout the facility and used all parts of the climbing facility for the competition … it flowed super well,” he said. “No challenges, no injuries, lots of parents and coaches able to spectate and help out. The space was specifically designed to host bigger competitions like this, and it really showed that we had that capacity.”