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Goat Fort climbers compete at regionals

Photo submitted to Times Observer Goat Fort Climbing Team members, from left, Natalie Muntz, Lily Lindell and Chase Long placed at the Regional Championships on Saturday, Jan. 15 in Pittsburgh. Team member Lily White was absent from the photo.

Four youth climbers from the Goat Fort Climbing Team made their way to Pittsburgh a week ago for 16 minutes on the wall.

All of them finished in the top half of their events.

The USA Climbing Regional Championships were held Saturday, Jan. 15, at Ascend. The top climbers in each division in the five-state region are invited to the regional event.

“Six of our kids were ranked in the top 26 in the region and were invited to compete at the Regional Championships,” Coach Dana Harrington said. “Four of our six athletes who qualified traveled to ASCEND in Pittsburgh to compete. It was an early day for most of our climbers who had to check in at 7 a.m.”

The early start combined with rules of the event to make it into a long, and possibly lonely, day, followed by a lonely trip to compete.

If climbers were able to watch their competitors or sit around looking at the challenges they had to face, there would be a significant disadvantage to those going first. So, the rules isolate climbers — and others who might have contact with them.

“The competition format was ‘onsite’ which meant that our climbers had to stay in the isolation area away from the competition boulders until it was their turn to climb,” Harrington said. “Once it was their turn to climb they only had four minutes to solve each of four boulder problems. And with no coaching allowed their season boiled down to 16 minutes alone on the wall.”

Most coaches get to watch, encourage, and help their athletes during competitions. It’s part of the job. It’s not that way for Harrington in onsite competitions.

He had to make a choice — be with and support his team members all day or quietly watch them compete.

“As a coach, it was difficult as I was stuck in the isolation area,” he said. ” Once in ‘iso’ you are not permitted to leave and come back in.”

“Outside of isolation this format is difficult for coaches as you are not permitted to offer any assistance,” Harrington said. “That’s right. No coaching. It even makes it difficult to cheer because you are nervous that you might inadvertently blurt out something that could aid the climber.”

He opted to stay in iso. “The best way to support our climbers was for me to be in iso to help them warm up and mentally prepare. It was difficult because I was not able to watch most of our kids climb.”

He could only comment first-hand on the performance of one of his team members.

Chase Long of Kane was the last Goat Fort competitor of the day.

“On the first boulder I could see Chase struggling to figure out the sequence of moves,” Harrington said. “He was visibly nervous and tense.”

There are two scoring locations for each problem. Climbers are scored on their times to the top and the zone, and the number of tries it takes them to get there.

“He did not manage the ‘Top,'” Harrington said. “He was able to get the ‘Zone’ hold.”

“The second boulder was more his style, and on only his second try he managed the ‘Top’ by leaping through the air and catching the final hold,” Harrington said. “He topped the next boulder on his first try and got another ‘Zone’ on his last boulder.”

“He finished with two tops in three tries and two zones in two tries,” he said. “A solid score.”

Long went into the competition as the No. 15 qualifier in Male Youth D.

Coach and competitor had to sit anxiously as the rest of the competitors finished before finding out how he did.

“In the end, he placed ninth,” Harrington said.

“It was fantastic to be able to watch him climb,” he said. “I only wish I could’ve seen the other kids.”

Goat Fort’s Lily Lindell finished seventh in her category and Lily White — eighth — and Natalie Muntz — 11th — in Female Youth D.

“I’m so proud of these kids,” Harrington said.

The Goat Fort team is a new one and the coach is expecting continued improvement.

“Having started this program only a few months ago I have high hopes that we can build a strong competitive youth climbing program and am already looking forward to the next bouldering season this fall,” Harrington said.

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