When thinking about Oklahoma, rock climbing is not generally something that comes to mind. That may change thanks to a young climber from Oklahoma City. On Sunday, July 7th, 2013, Chloe Massenat, 13, climbed her way to the top of her field and secured first place in the USA Climbing Sport Climbing Series (SCS) National Championship held in Atlanta, Georgia at Stone Summit Climbing Gym. Chloe’s victory is not only her first national title but also a first for the Oklahoma Climbing Team and the state.
The USA Climbing SCS Nationals is held annually and features the most talented young climbers in the country. Climbers must advance through local, regional, and divisional competitions in order to qualify for the four-day event held on July 4th through the 7th. Scores are calculated based on the height a climber progresses on each climb. Every day of climbing features increasingly more difficult routes and those in the top half of the field continue to semi-finals and then finals. Chloe ranked 7th after qualifiers then in semi-finals advanced to 1st place. The final round was on Sunday July 7th, and she was the last climber in her category.
“She climbed last,” said her dad Laurent Massenat, “so she had no idea how the other girls climbed. When she reached the top of her climb she had no idea. Then when she came down everyone gave her big hugs. Her friends told her she was the national champion!”
Despite having no idea how the previous competitors in her field climbed, Chloe made her way through the overhanging terrain and multiple crux moves to reach the highest hold before falling.
“I was really close to the top, I thought that one other person or two had gotten a hold or two higher. So I was unsure about how well I’d done,” says Chloe.
During the semi-final and final round of competition, the climbers are held in an isolated warm-up area (climbers call it “iso”) and brought out one-by-one for their single attempt to complete a difficult climb they’ve just seen. Chris Yates, Chloe’s team coach at the event, noted that waiting in the warm-up area was pretty intense because Chloe was anxious to climb.
“It’s hard waiting,” Chloe said.
“She didn’t warm up a lot. She was saying her hands weren’t feeling too good,” Coach Yates said. But all of that went away when Chloe stepped on the wall.
“She’s gotten a lot more patience and that has helped her climbing. On the wall she was able to figure out a better solution for her size. She just climbed it beautifully,” Chris says of the finals route.
“Chloe is so serious and focused,” says her dad, “she gets in the zone.”
As an added accomplishment, Chloe also took fifth place in Speed climbing.
“Her time improved almost a full second with each try. Her final speed climbing time was 9.05 seconds,” says Laurent. Her time was just one-one hundredth of a second shy of tying for fourth place.
Chloe began climbing and has been a member of the Oklahoma Climbing Team since 2009. The Oklahoma Climbing Team began in early 2008 with the goal of introducing youth to the world of rock climbing and climbing competitions. Aaron Gibson, 39, founder and head coach of the team, began climbing as a teenager, himself, and was drawn to competitive climbing because of the challenge and as a means to experience grace under pressure.
“Competition climbing requires immense concentration, physical ability, and determination. It’s the perfect balance of the three. That’s what I see in Chloe’s performance. She has worked so hard and participated in national competitions several times. This achievement is just representative of her talent and efforts,” says Aaron.
The Oklahoma Climbing Team practices twice weekly at the Rocktown Climbing Gym in downtown OKC. Climbers work with coaches on technique, strength building, and mental exercises. The competitive climbing season consists of the Bouldering season in the Fall and the Sport Climbing Season in the Spring. Currently there are 12 climbers on the Team. There is also a coached Club level team that works with brand new climbers in preparation for the possibility of joining the competitive team.
So what’s next for Chloe? Sometime this year she will attend a special climbing training session for the US National team. She will receive a USA Climbing Team jacket and hopefully a sponsorship, “with La Sportiva [climbing shoe brand],” says Chloe.
Of her overall experience and feeling about the event, Chloe simply says, “I feel pretty happy about being in first place.”