Regional Qualifiers (left to right) Grant Criswell, Natalie Muntz, Chase Long, Lily White, and Elodie Criswell. Photo submitted

Five Goat Fort Thundering Herd Climbers Compete at Regional Championships

January 19, 2024

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Goat Fort Thundering Herd brought home five top-25 finishes from the USA Climbing Regional Championships at Iron City Boulders on Jan. 13.

The Thundering Herd finished 8th in the team standings, despite having only four scoring opportunities.

“Teams are ranked by their top athlete in each category,” Goat Fort’s Dana Harrington said. “We are a young team and don’t yet have athletes in the older categories. So as a team, we only have four opportunities to score versus the 10 available to teams with older kids. Still, our climbers did so well that The Goat Fort Thundering Herd was 8th overall.”

Individually, Lily White finished third in the Youth C (11 and 12) division. That finish earned White a trip to the Division Championships, the first Thundering Herd climber to advance to that level.

“Lily White will be the first Warren climber to qualify for this event, making her one of the best youth climbers from West Virginia to Nebraska,” Harrington said.

Elodie (2nd) and Grant Criswell (8th) both competed in Youth D (10 and under). And at only 8 years old, Elodie was just one “Zone” behind the 1st place finisher. Chase Long (23rd) and Natalie Muntz (18th) also competed in Youth C.

“It was intense,” Harrington said. “The format of this competition was different from the qualifiers. At this event, climbers faced down four separate climbing challenges, limited to only four minutes for each, and without any assistance of any kind. That’s right; no coaching allowed.”

Those climbers not actively climbing had to wait in an “isolation zone” to keep them from scouting the climbing challenges.

“Throughout the day this space would accommodate nearly 220 athletes, plus coaches and officials–all crammed into this space preparing to climb: moving around, climbing the walls, and stretching,” Harrington said. “It was a struggle to control nerves. And with so many athletes vying for space to climb and warm up, it was difficult to prepare. As a coach, my job is to manage the chaos and make sure my kids have what they need to prepare, not just physically but mentally. It is so easy to get overwhelmed.”

Climbers are taken out of the isolation zone in groups of five, closely guarded by officials so they remain secluded and unable to view the competition arena. Competitors are placed in a chair, instructed to keep their heads down, and not interact with anyone. They spend four minutes in the chair, followed by a 30-second transition period, then they are turned toward a section of the climbing wall and the first challenge begins.

“They have four minutes to attempt the climb, trying to progress to designated ‘zone’ holds, or better yet, the ‘top’ which is the best possible result,” Harrington said. “After the four minutes are up, they are escorted to another isolation chair, and the process repeats until they have attempted all four challenges. The whole process takes about 40 minutes.”

Harrington had his skills as a coach put to the test during this competition as well. Grant Criswell suffered a bloody nose just as his name was called to compete, which left Harrington and Criswell eight minutes to stop the bleeding. No climbers are permitted on the wall if they are actively bleeding.

“What appeared to be fairly benign, quickly erupted into a literal bloody mess,” Harrington said. “The clock was ticking. If we failed to stop the bleeding his competition would be over. The rules are very clear, any active bleeding would keep him off the wall and once his allotted time expired he would be done. No exceptions! We need to stop the bleeding, while otherwise keeping him calm and focused on the extreme challenge he would be facing in a few short minutes. By some miracle, we were able to stop the bleeding, and he was ushered out of isolation just in time. I was truly amazed by the composure of this 10-year-old.”

The regional championships included teams from Detroit, Morgantown, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.

The divisional championships will be held Feb. 10 – 11 in Indianapolis.


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