We've all been there: you're at the gym flailing your attempts on that month-long project when a kid half your size coasts along and warms up on it. Come into Sender and you can see why: Under the careful guidance of coaches Chad Gilbert, Sarah Richardson, and the rest of the Youth Programs staff, climbers on our teams are learning how to balance rigorous training with having LOTS of fun.
The proof is in the pudding. At the last ABS Regionals held at The Factory in Orange, CA, the climbers of Sender's Youth Programs took the team award for first place. Among them was Jessica Capalbo, a 16-year-old powerhouse who individually scored first in her division, Female Youth A. She's headed to Ogden, Utah with the other Sender climbers who qualified to compete against the strongest young climbers around this part of the US.
Competitive climbing seems like another world to the everyday post-work pullers so we thought we'd ask Jess to enlighten us on what it's like.
Hi Jess! Congrats on taking first at Regionals!
J: Thank you! I felt so rewarded for all the hard work I've put in this season and I was very excited to see it pay off.
J: About ten years ago.
Since then, you started climbing competitively. What's the appeal?
J: I love climbing competitively because I seem to perform best under pressure and I like to push myself to my limits.
A lot of climbers can get pretty antsy during competitions and when the pressure builds we've all got our ways of getting in the zone. Do you get nervous? What do you do to psyche yourself up before a climb?
J: My nerves tend to set in while I’m in isolation and it helps to focus on my breathing. When I first began climbing competitively, I remember watching an older competitor psyche himself up by jumping around, waving his arms, and literally yelling, “Get psyched! Get psyched! Get psyched!” To this day, I haven’t found a better way to psyche myself up than by following his example, but with a bit less yelling.
Well, you've certainly been working hard in the gym and we're glad to hear how well you did at Regionals! Divisionals is going to be a whole 'nother beast. How are you training for it?
J: Over the years of competing, one of my biggest challenges has been climbing while being pumped. To improve my endurance, cardio has been a big part of my training. Additionally, I climb at Sender One three to five times a week.
What do you expect Divisionals to be like this year?
J: The competition is much stiffer than it is at regionals. Having the opportunity to climb alongside such talented competitors is extremely humbling. I also really appreciate the effort that goes into the competition behind the scenes. The route setters do an amazing job setting fun, technical routes and the volunteers are very helpful.
If you were to give yourself advice for Divisionals, what would you say?
J: If I could give myself advice, I would say, “Have fun and climb your best.” I know it’s cliche, but my training has brought me to this point and I have to trust that I can perform my best. In the end, I began climbing because I love it, and regardless of the competition’s outcome, it will always be one of my greatest passions.
Even though you're competing in your own division, you've been training with a team. What's it been like approaching climbing as a team sport?
J: Training with the Sender One Team is great! In the past year, we’ve grown as both friends and climbers. Having teammates you feel comfortable with is a key aspect to getting better; whether it be training or goofing off, we are always able to encourage each other. One of my closest friends, Sara Griffith, has been my climbing partner and teammate for the past ten years. It’s been a privilege to see her improve and improve alongside her.
What are your goals for the future?
In the near future, I hope to qualify for the Youth World Championships. In the long term, I would love to give back to the climbing community by building my own gym.
Good luck to you and the rest of the team, Jess!