The challenge is both mental and physical. The goal is to reach the top. To win means overcoming the voices in your head that say "stop."
The sport is rock climbing and students from 11 high school teams throughout the region gathered at Adventure Rock on March 30 to discover the top team and best climber.
Adventure Rock, out of Pewaukee, spearheaded the high school program three years ago with the help of Andy Miers, who was an intern at the time.
"We think it's good for kids which is why we really want to encourage it," said manager of Adventure Rock Craig Burzynski.
There are now approximately 150 high school students who participate in rock climbing through their respective schools. These students have a chance to see how they rank among each other at three competitions each semester at Adventure Rock. Last week was the first spring competition that focused on endurance.
Each climber tackled numerous routes. When a climber reached the top, they were awarded points. Route difficulty dictates the number of points allotted.
"We can vary the difficulty greatly, from being something that anyone can get up, to something where only the very elite climbers can get up so all the competitions are based mostly on difficulty and they have some variation on that theme," Burzynski said.
There are team winners and winners of four divisions, which are broken up between experience levels.
Physical, mental tests
Climbers aren't scored on speed, but difficulty of the route, which means the path a climber takes up the wall. Rose Walton, a senior at Menomonee Falls High School placed second in division two. Although Walton said climbers need core strength for the sport, once she reaches a certain height on a route, she simply keeps climbing.
"You tell yourself you're already up that high, so you might as well keep going," Walton said. She has been climbing since the beginning of the school year.
"I like the atmosphere here a lot and hanging out with friends," she said.
Rock climbing clubs are student-driven organizations. To form, a team needs a minimum of 10 members, an affiliation with a school and a volunteer teacher to act as coach.
The Menomonee Falls team is currently searching for new members as their numbers recently fell to three students. Junior Jill Schweiss and Walton were the only two students to compete on Friday. Schweiss said there are students starting to become interested, however, since the school's gym class took a field trip to Adventure Rock.
Since Schweiss started climbing, she said she has gotten stronger and more in shape.
"It's a good stress reliever," she said.
For her, it's a mixture of determination and an adrenaline rush that pushes her to the top of a climb.
Climbing is great activity
Although the event was a competition, offering rock climbing as an option for high school students goes well beyond competing, Burzynski said.
First, he said it is a social sport and puts students in a setting where they communicate with each other.
"It's active, but it's not just active physically, it's also a big mental challenge and the mental challenge comes in when figuring out how to make your body do the moves as they go up the wall," Burzynski said. "The scared thing rubs off quickly and you focus more on the movement and how to make your body get up."
He said one goal of Adventure Rock is to provide children a place to hang out in a safe environment, which is one reason the competitions are held on Friday nights. High school students also receive half off climbs every Friday night.
"One of my goals in running the business is to give teenagers an option where they don't have to go to a party and get in trouble," Burzynski said.
For information on Adventure Rock, call (262) 790-6800 or visit adventurerock.com. Adventure Rock is located at 21250 W. Capitol Drive, Brookfield.
1. Sussex Hamilton
3. Nathan Hale High School (West Allis)
4. Wauwatosa East
5. Marquette (Milwaukee)
6. Menomonee Falls
7. Brookfield Central
8. Pius (Milwaukee)
9. Divine Savior Holy Angels (Milwaukee)
10. New Berlin West
11. Milwaukee Lutheran (Milwaukee)
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