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Kai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Kai Lightner wins his 5th consecutive SCS Championship title…

After 2 weeks of training in Europe, I was VERY eager to get back home and train for this year’s SCS Youth National Championship in Atlanta, GA. Two weeks before nationals, I always go to Atlanta to train at the competition venue, Stone Summit. One of the best parts about climbing at Stone Summit before Nationals is seeing all my friends at the pre-national training camps held there annually. While there, my day consists of training really hard with competitors (that I technically compete against). Although in most sports competitors rival with one another, climbing is one of the rare sports where competitors actually cheer each other on. Instead of rivalries between competitors, we actually have fun working together and helping each other improve on routes during the pre-national training camp. As the camps came to an end, everyone started to get excited about competing at the most anticipated competition of the year to decide who would represent the United States at this year’s Youth World Championships.

Kai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals 2014 via prAna Life

The qualifying round of the competition consisted of two separate routes: qualifier 1 (Q1) which is held the first day (Friday), and qualifier 2 (Q2) on the second day (Saturday). Both routes were flash format. Traditionally, Q1 is a really easy route that almost everyone completes. However, after multiple falls from our forerunner during our route preview, that belief quickly disappeared. Our forerunner helped to expose several tricky spots on the route which were not obvious from the ground. Our Q1 route started out really easy, a lot of positive holds on an overhang, but at about the 70% mark, the route changed to more slabby sections with not-so-good holds up to the anchors. Out of 36 competitors, only 3 completed the route.

Our Q2 route started up an overhanging wall and quickly changed to about 30 feet of roof climbing (on really positive holds). The last section of the route was all slab, with a lot of really balancey moves to the anchors. After climbing an overhang and roof section, balancey moves are much more difficult when you’re tired. As a result, only 4 climbers completed the route. Our two qualifier scores were combined, and the top 16 climbers advanced to semifinals. I entered the semifinals round in a two way tie for first.

While previewing our semifinals route I made a mental note about a sloper section mid route and the final move to the anchors. The sloper section had a weird sequence that looked a little confusing, and the final hold on the route was a sidepull (turned in the opposite direction).

The route started by climbing on really positive holds, on an overhanging wall for about 40 feet. Then the route changed to a slab section with the weird sloper sequence, followed by a few power moves up to a nice jug right below the lip to the final wall surface of the route. Luckily while climbing the route, when I got to the sloper section, as I made each move, my body kind of fell into the next move and the sequence made a lot more sense than it did from the ground. After clearing the sloper section and the power moves to the jug, I was glad to get a good rest before transitioning to the final section of the route.

Kai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals 2014 via prAna Life

At this point in the route, I had climbed about 70 ft (and had just cleared a tough section), so routesetters had to know that climbers would be physically and mentally tired. With this in mind, someone came up with the “brilliant” idea (note the sarcasm) to have us clear the lip of the wall by grabbing two crimps (one on the side of a volume) and drop cutting (our tired bodies) to a really good foot just over the lip. If we managed to make that move, they knew we wouldn’t have much juice left in us. After clearing this sequence, I made a few more moves up to the second to last hold. At this point my arms were starting to get fatigued and I wasn’t sure if I could finish the route. I got a good drop knee, to relieve my arms for a few seconds; I clipped the anchors, and then made the final move to the finish hold. I managed to get a good grip on the finish hold, but it was slippery and shallow, so I slipped right off, falling short of completing the route. Although I didn’t get the send, I had high point on the route.

My semifinals climb was my favorite route of the comp- a variety of climbing styles and wall angles, they kept me thinking, and I had to fight for the finish. It was definitely Type 2 fun :-)!

Kai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals 2014 via prAna Life

For our finals route, we were back on the roof! This time we had a longer roof section to climb (at least 40 feet). The route started on an overhang up to the roof section. In order to clear the roof section, we had to balance on a series of three slopers, up to an even larger sloper where I was able to get a good shake out. After the large sloper was a move to a big volume. I later found out that another climber was able to get a REALLY good rest by wedging himself between one of the slopers below and the volume. With my height that wasn’t going to happen, and luckily I wasn’t tired and didn’t need to rest. After stopping for a few seconds at the volume, I made my final push through a series of “interesting movements” on crimps and slopers in order to get to the anchors.

Kai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals 2014 via prAna LifeKai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals 2014 via prAna LifeKai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals 2014 via prAna Life

I was really excited to complete the route and cinch my fifth consecutive SCS championship title! I was even more psyched to earn the opportunity to represent the USA at the Youth World Championships in New Caledonia in September!!
Before you raise an eybrow and ask “Where is New Caledonia?” It’s an island off the coast of Australia :).

Kai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals 2014 via prAna Life

This year’s Nationals was pretty awesome. With the help of a lot of great volunteers, the staff (and owners) of Stone Summit Climbing gym, USA Climbing officials, and amazing routesetters, they put on an incredible event for hundreds of competitors to enjoy!!

Below is a picture of the US Team for the Male Youth B (14-15 yr old) category. WISH US LUCK!!!

Kai Lightner Wins Youth Nationals 2014 via prAna Life

(Image Sydney McNair)

Next stop, Psicobloc ………….

~Kai Lightner, prAna Ambassador

Learn more about Kai