The American Scholastic Climbing League Comes to Arkansas

The American Scholastic Climbing League Comes to Arkansas

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Twenty-five years ago, I took my son David, who was still in grade school, to an introduction to climbing program at Sam’s Throne in the Ozark Mountains. Little Rock Parks and Recreation hosted the event, and Zen Boulden of Byrd’s Adventure Center led the training. Unfortunately, there was an age limit for participating in the climbs, and my son was not old enough to join. He was left with a book in a camp chair. However, we were fortunate to have Lynn Hill, a world-renowned rock climber and holder of numerous climbing titles, also present at the event. While I worked with Zen and the other participants on climbing techniques. When I went to check on David, I found that he had talked his way into some one-on-one training with Ms. Hill on a nearby boulder. He has always been a lucky person in his own right.

Aspiring young rock climbers in Arkansas can now learn the intricacies of climbing without relying on luck. The American Scholastic Climbing League (ASCL) is expanding into the Natural State, providing students with an opportunity to engage in this thrilling sport while competing and connecting with others.

Starting in the 2024-2025 season, Arkansas will join the participating states of Colorado, Ohio, and Texas in the ASCL, bringing organized climbing competitions to middle and high school students. The league fosters a positive and supportive environment for young climbers to develop their skills, challenge themselves, and build camaraderie with peers who share their passion for the sport. The League is for all middle and high school climbers, regardless of their skill level, and aims to foster a friendly competitive environment among climbers. The competition is divided into two categories: middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12), with separate categories for boys and girls.

The Little Rock Area Region (LIT) will be the first region established in Arkansas, led by Sharon Bennet, who works with the Arkansas Climbers Coalition and Blane McClellan. This means students in the Little Rock area can look forward to participating in local competitions, testing their climbing prowess on a variety of routes, and pushing their limits in a safe and encouraging atmosphere.

“Every kid needs a place to experience failure and know it’s not the end of a process, but the very beginning. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to bring the American Scholastic Climbing League to Arkansas,” said Sharon Bennett, State Director for ASCL.

Each region within the ASCL holds a series of climbing competitions throughout the season. These competitions lead up to a Regional Final and a State Final (for states with multiple regions). During the regular season, competitions may be focused on bouldering only, roped climbing only, or a mix of both. In each competition, climbers attempt to climb a predetermined number of preselected routes to submit their scores. Points are awarded based on the difficulty of the climb, as well as for flashing the climb (completing it on the first try without falling) and/or completing a roped climb on lead.

Registration for the 2024-2025 season is expected to open in the fall, giving aspiring climbers ample time to prepare and hone their skills at local climbing gyms. The ASCL season generally opens in November and closes in February. The league offers various resources and support for coaches and schools, making it easier for them to integrate climbing into their athletic programs. The Arkansas chapter has four regional directors, 26 league coaches, five supporting gyms, and over 20 participating schools. The chapter has achieved enough funding to provide 60 qualifying students 6 months of gym membership in their region, climbing gear, and competition fees paid this year. Funding for the Arkansas chapter comes from Walton Family Foundation grants, business and individual sponsorship, and discounts provided by local climbing gyms.

“I’m excited that we can offer a successful format for student-athletes in Arkansas who want to learn, enjoy, and celebrate the sport of climbing. It’s an opportunity for students to be surrounded by the uplifting community that climbing provides. These kids will find a safe and positive place with Sharon Bennett as a wonderful advocate for the sport which brings great vibes,” Theresa Morris, Founder and Executive Director of ASCL.

Much like the well-established National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), the American Scholastic Climbing League works to introduce young people to a sport that they can enjoy throughout their lives.

The arrival of the ASCL in Arkansas marks a significant step forward for the sport, offering a structured and exciting platform for young climbers to showcase their talents and pursue their passion. Whether you’re a seasoned climber or just starting, the ASCL provides a fantastic opportunity to learn, grow, and compete in a supportive and vibrant community.

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Get ready to clip in, Arkansas! The future of climbing looks bright in the Natural State.

More information can be found at:

(Photos are from the Colorado State High School Final this past February, courtesy of ASCL)

Arkansas Cycling & Fitness.

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