Freshmen climbs ranks in American Bouldering Competition

Kathleen Ambre

Some may consider rock climbing more of an activity than an actual sport, but freshman Neal Davis takes it very seriously. Putting in at least six hours a week and traveling to competitions around the state, he is no ordinary freshman. For more than two years Davis has been one of many dedicated climbers at Vertical Endeavors, a facility located in St. Paul, with more than 18,200 square feet of climbing surface and 60 separate ropes.

Neal Davis first got involved in the sport when he quit basketball in seventh grade and was looking for something to do with his free time. Starting out in a beginner group his first year, he quickly moved up to the facility’s advanced team. “For advanced you have a schedule and workouts you need to do and it’s way more competitive,” said Davis.

Every year Neal and his team train in the spring, summer, and fall in anticipation for the American Bouldering Series, a national indoor rock climbing competition done without protective ropes or harnesses. To avoid falling from the twenty foot drop, every climber must be especially conscious of his or her every move: “It’s really hard, and each move is technical,” said Davis. In order to qualify for nationals, taking place in Boulder, Colorado in mid-February, each athlete must finish first or second at regionals. A part of the Midwest subdivision, Davis and his team travel to two smaller competitions within the state to place in regionals.

Neal Davis finished sixth at the Midwest regionals last year, but hopes in the next couple years he can place high enough to make it to Colorado. “I would really like to make it to nationals. I don’t know about this year but maybe next year,” said Davis. However, the amount of practice and physical training that goes into reaching that kind of goal can be overwhelming.

Davis currently practices twice a week for a minimum of three hours per session, each session offering constructive practice with teammates and coaches as well as a weight room to build up the upper body strength every climber needs to do well. To reach his highest potential would require even more strength training that focuses on core muscles and stamina training that focuses on speed. But, with the help of encouraging coaches, teammates, and supportive parents, competing at a national level is still a possibility for this freshman.