Comps, Comps, Comps!

By Campbell Harrison

I’ve been super busy training and keeping up with school at the same time. Recently I competed in a string of three consecutive State Championships: Tasmanian State Boulder Championship, Queensland State Lead Championship and New South Wales State Lead Championship.

Tasmania

The first of the three saw me in Tasmania. I approached this competition with a bit of anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I love to boulder, but I’ve never been particularly successful in competition.

Qualifiers were a bit rough for me. I got my usual boulder competition jitters during the first couple of problems and tunnel vision had set in. However, I still managed to top all the problems and put myself in third place going into the finals. And I was intent on having a better run in the final round.

Observation time revealed a set of five problems, considerably more difficult than those in the qualifying round. The first problem consisted of a slab-to-slab leap across a gap hanging from a small, swinging wooden ball that proved too much for all but a few who managed to nab the bonus, just. I moved forward onto problem two very optimistically, because it looked to be my style. However, just as I moved to match the final hold on my first attempt, I slipped, and I just couldn’t make my way back through the final move of the steep and slightly pumpy problem. Problem three took me four attempts, but I managed to top it, being the only climber to claim victory on the problem. The fourth problem, I flashed. I felt strong and technical, much better than the previous round. The fifth and final problem was ever so slightly overhanging on tiny little edges that I just couldn’t fully take hold of, but I scored myself a bonus in one attempt.

Despite a relatively small number of tops, I was, overall, very happy with my climbing, and I had managed to take out first place with two tops in four attempts. Second place was close behind with one top for one attempt, and the remaining places were decided between bonuses and countback. It was reassuring to know that when I really tried to relax and prepare myself right, I could pull my way through the bouldering comp with a clear mindset and climb strong.

The event was hosted by Rock It Climbing Centre, a shiny new gym that recently popped up in Hobart CBD. As the first state level competition that the gym hosted, the organisers were, of course, nervous, but certainly delivered with an awesome day.

Queensland

My next competition took place one week later at Urban Climb, Queensland. I’d never been to Queensland before, so I was excited. During first qualifier, I called my first ever technical (on the advice of both my belayer and my judge) after falling due to a hold poorly placed under a folded quick draw. After having the draw removed, my second attempt went much more smoothly. I fell in the midst of the final move. The second qualifier ended with a top for myself and a number of others, meaning that I was in equal first for the final. The final was very short with a high crux, and my entire category split by about three moves. I managed to take out Youth A by a plus. That gave me my second Youth A Lead victory this year, continuing a good season in the Youth category.

The Opens consisted of one of the largest fields I’ve seen at an Australian state-level competition. With well over 30 competitors, finals was looking like it might be a real challenge. Luckily, I got through both qualifiers and went into finals again in equal first place with two other athletes, Matthew Tsang (NSW) and Matthew Cochrane (QLD). The trend carried through to the finals, with four of us scoring to the same hold! The fourth athlete, Sam Bowman, had skipped a draw that prevented him from topping the first qualifier, putting him down into fourth place. The remaining three of us were split on time, putting Matt Tsang in third, myself in second and Matthew Cochrane into first. While I had a lot of fun on the route, and I was super happy for Matt, no part of me was okay with my final result in the circumstances, especially after having worked so hard to make myself a slower, more efficient climber. But there was no more I could have done, so I’ve simply moved on and vowed to always climb further.

New South Wales

My last competition of the month was the New South Wales State Lead Championship at The Edge Rock Climbing Centre in Castle Hill. The walls at this gym were much taller than at my last competition, coming in at 18 metres in height. I was perhaps lacking the endurance I’ve had in the past, but one of my strengths in comps has always been pulling through despite being pumped. My first qualifier in Youth A was long, but I managed to find a nice knee bar to take the pressure off before topping the route, followed by a top on my second route, which consisted of mostly positive holds to a final face on small, sloped jibs.

Qualifying again in first, things were still looking up, and I was only a step away from taking victory at every state lead title in the Youth A category. The only thing standing in my way was this one route, and the only issue for any of us, we thought as myself and my fellow competitors mapped out the route from the ground, would be the sequence… Man, the sequence… I worked my way through the majority of the route only to pull myself into the completely wrong position, with my right hand on a hold that I then realised was clearly set as a left. Normally in this instance I panic, desperately try to match the hold and throw for the next with no hope. But I stopped, shook out, and considered my options. Calmly I moved down the route through some tough compression moves, and worked my way back up to a top. My third title was in my grasp. While perhaps I could have climbed better, I was, and still am, infinitely happy with my ability to think under pressure, and knowing that my hard work is paying off.

Opens went well, with double tops for myself and a number of others, bringing it all down to the final, which appeared to be mostly comprised of big, nasty slopers, then on to smaller edges before some big moves to the route’s finish. The men were able to watch the women’s final prior to competing, since our route was in a different section of the gym. Hats off to Lucy Stirling, who topped the route in effortless style, but a special mention to Olivia Campton who put in a stellar effort to place a well-earned second.

The crowd gave me no hint as to how the final was going, so I tuned out completely and tried focus on my climbing. I pulled onto the wall and worked my way through a funky start up to an overhanging delight of slopes and pinches. Each hold felt infinitely better than I had imagined, and I moved up through the route past some crimps into a nice left hand before a big push to what turned out to be a terrible little sloper. I clung to the hold for dear life and somehow, I managed to stay on the wall, bring my foot up nice and high for a final pop to the last hold. Before I knew it, my rope was through the draw and I was done.

I’m so happy with how the past couple weeks have played out. I think I’m climbing better than I ever have before, and I’m managing, so far, to keep my head together amongst it all. There’s so much training to do before I’m truly ready to head to Worlds, and this will be my focus in the next seven weeks leading up to Nationals.

Photo by Naomi Benjamin

This is a version of a blog post originally published at campbellharrisonclimbing.blogspot.com.au. This edited post appears here with permission. Visit Campbell’s blog for more.

Campbell Harrison is sponsored by La Sportiva, Tri-Climbing and ICP.

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