Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL ” Luke Rasmussen couldn’t make the state ski meet this week.
But he had a pretty good excuse.
“I have to miss states to go to nationals,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen, 14, along with Erik Warmenhoven, 12, and Logan Jauernigg, 11, are competing in this weekend’s American Boulder Series National Championships in Maryland. Not bad for kids who have been climbing competitively for a combined four years.
“It’s an amazing progression,” said Larry Moore, head of the Vail Athletic Club Climbing Team, where the three kids are members. “We’re fortunate to have, in the Vail Valley, the level of athleticism that is super high. Some of these kids are great athletes, really coachable, and willing get out there and try new ideas. The program has been a huge success because of the students.”
The VAC team brought 11 kids to regionals in Boulder, where for the first time in its history, some moved on to nationals.
“They are three of the top 30 climbers of their age in the entire nation, so that’s a huge privilege for them to be qualified at that level,” Moore said.
While Moore knows how great his climbers are, and what an honor it is to make nationals, those heading there may be a little fresh to the sport to fully understand what it means.
“I’ve only been climbing for two years,” said Warmenhoven, noting that going to the big show hasn’t quite hit him yet.
Jauernigg has spent time climbing recreationally but just got into competitions this past year.
And Rasmussen, who first went to regionals last year, could be considered the veteran.
“For the past two years, I’ve gotten pretty good because I’ve been climbing all winter,” Rasmussen said.
At regionals, the climbers could select from a number of different routes and try them as many times as they liked. They were scored on their best climbs, with the points being added and then those with the highest totals moving on.
But nationals have different criteria. There, climbers are led up to problems (climbing routes) they’ve never seen before and have four minutes to attempt each of four different problems.
“They have to read the route, see where the holds are, and what the movement is, and climb it,” Moore said. “Then, they have a four-minute rest period and need to move on to the next problem.”
The problems they see may be new, but thanks to Moore’s training, the format won’t be.
“We’ve been doing mock competitions, practicing being in isolation and stuff like that,” Jauernigg said.
On Tuesday night at the VAC’s climbing wall, the three nationals-bound climbers worked on two sets of four problems. Moore tried to make the situation as realistic as what the kids could expect at nationals, but there are a few conditions that can’t be replicated, like a huge audience.
“I’m not exactly sure what it’ll be like,” Rasmussen said. “You tend to block it out when you climb because you get so focused on what you need to do.”
Young competitors making huge strides is less of an anomaly in bouldering and more of the norm.
“It’s a sport of young people. Light, flexible, athletic kids have a natural aptitude with it,” Moore said. “They have a great strength-to-weight ratio, which is important for climbing.”
Still, Moore enjoys watching his kids’ abilities flourish.
“It’s exciting to see kids that have natural aptitude and kids who have trained to get it, and where they are going with it,” Moore said.
The VAC has three teams ” a developmental, a junior A and a competitive squad ” and a total of 28 climbers.
“There’s definitely some admiration from the younger kids watching the kids who have been working at it for a couple years,” Moore said. “And it’s super supportive. Everyone is trying to help each other any way they can.”