Column: Climbing club provides unexpected opportunities

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During my final year attending Colorado State University-Pueblo, I decided to join the school’s climbing club. I had considered joining in the past, since I had been climbing with the Outdoor Pursuits for a few years.

But there were always two things keeping me from joining before. The first reason, which might be obvious for a college student, was that I didn’t want to pay the fee. It seemed like a lot of money to spend upfront when I wasn’t considering the discounted competition prices and the experience of being part of a team.

I was only thinking about the other ways I could spend that money on things more immediate, such as going out to eat or on more climbing gear. It wasn’t until I actually dedicated to joining the team the experience it would give me never occurred to me: The places the club took me were worth more than the fee.

The second thing keeping me from joining was thinking I wasn’t good enough to compete. I had been climbing for two years and I always found it enjoyable. Climbing at an intermediate grade was never a concern when I was only climbing for my own pleasure.

I had friends who were already a part of the club, and they assured me that anyone was welcome to join the team. Anyone on campus who wants to learn more about climbing is welcome to join the team.

After being told that, I finally decided that the climbing club was the right choice for me.

I started thinking about how in high school I loved being a part of a competitive team. When our first competition rolled around in December, I had a stomach full of butterflies, but I was ready to get on the wall and climb my hardest.

After that first competition, I was hooked. Climbing had taken on a whole new meaning. It went from something I liked to do for fun to something I loved to push myself to do better at. I started training, pushing myself at practice and seeing improvements. I was climbing harder than I ever had because I had something driving me.

At the end of each season, the club helps send the five top climbers to nationals. This past year, nationals were hosted in San Diego. When I first joined the club, I thought there was no way I would be able to make it and go compete. It all sounded too good to be true.

By the end of the season, we had our top five climbers determined and the fifth and sixth place climbers were so close to one another that the club council helped send six climbers to nationals. Somehow, I was one of those climbers.

The trip to San Diego was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It was more than just a vacation because I knew I had earned being there. It was the best way to close out my college career being able to see some of the best collegiate climbers in the world and climb next to them.

I will continue to climb, but it won’t ever be the same. I made the most of my last year here and only regret no doing it sooner. I can still compete on my own, but I won’t have my team anymore. They were my support group helping me train and pushing me during competitions.

After an incredible season, all of our team’s hard work paid off. We were voted the No. 1 club sport of the 2015-2016 academic year by the Club Sport Council and the president and coach of climbing club, Reese Irwin, received the President of the Year award.