The Goat Fort Thundering Herd's Natalie Muntz makes a climb in Akron, Ohio. Photo submitted.

Thundering Herd Has Strong Showing in Difficult Competition at Akron

November 15, 2023

AKRON, Ohio – The Goat Fort Thundering Herd was scaling the walls again on Saturday, Nov. 4. This time it was Rock Mill climbing gym in Akron, OH.

There were 165 athletes in attendance ranging from 8 to 18 years old. The Thundering Herd had 9 kids in four separate categories: Male Youth C, Male Youth D, Female Youth C, and Female Youth D. The focus at this competition was on the boulders.

“As a coach, the boulders are paramount,” Thundering Herd coach Dana Harrington said. “Each competition features a completely unique set. You never know what you are going to get and the kids have to adjust on the fly depending on the nature of these climbing challenges. For this competition, there were six boulders per category.”

Competing in the Youth D category Olivia Bailey, in her first year and first competition, succeeded in getting 4 of the 6 Low Zones and even managed to secure one Top. Elodie Criswell captured 5 Low Zones and 3 Tops to propel her into 4th place.

For the boys in Youth D Conor Ash, in only his second competition, was able to control 4 of the 6 Low Zones. Plus, he topped 2 boulders elevating him to 10th place. Coleman Miller secured all 6 Low Zones and topped 3 of the 6 boulders, finishing 6th overall. Grant Criswell had an epic day getting all 6 Low Zones and topping 5 of the 6 boulders finishing 3rd—only two attempts out of 2nd place.

“The Youth D boulders were solid,” Harrington said. “There was a good variety of movement and a consistent progression in the level of difficulty. Still, there wasn’t anything easy and the kids had to fight hard for tops which were in short supply.”

In the female Youth C category Natalie Muntz captured 4 of the 6 Low Zones and managed 3 Tops to secure 13th place. Lily White also topped 3 boulders, but was able to secure all 6 Low Zones to propel her into 4th place.

“The Youth C boulders left a little to be desired,” Harrington said. “While the movement was good, there was a distinct jump in difficulty. The first three boulders were decent, but the last three were much harder. Nonetheless, our athletes climbed well.”

For the boys Youth C category both Chase Long and Owen Ash were able to control 4 of the 6 Low Zones. Plus, they topped 3 boulders. However, Chase was able to do this in fewer tries, so the boys finished 15th and 18th respectively.

“It was a great day,” Harrington said. “I am very proud of these kids, and they all deserve recognition for their determination and effort. Three hours of climbing is both physically and mentally exhausting. We had a few standout performances. Lily White’s 4th place finish propelled her to an overall 4th place ranking in the region. Elodie Criswell’s 4th place finish advanced her to an overall 3rd place ranking in the region. Grant Criswell’s 3rd place finish secured him a ranking of 6th in the region.

“And finally, we are so proud of Olivia Bailey, in her first ever USA Climbing event. She is a young Youth D, in some cases two years younger then the other kids in her category. She not only endured the pressure of this intense situation, but found her groove, climbed hard, and even topped a boulder.”

At the halfway point of the season the Thundering Herd has four athletes ranked in the Top 10 in the region, White, Muntz, Grant Criswell, and Elodie Criswell.

“These four are almost guaranteed a spot at the Regional Championships,” Harrington said. “The remaining qualifiers are in Cincinnati, Detroit, and Indianapolis. Most of our athletes who are vying for a spot at the Regional Championships have achieved two solid qualifying scores, and do not need to travel and compete in the three remaining events. Still, the qualifying season is far from over and we will have to wait until later this December for the final rankings.”

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