Boulders and Bridles

Student athletes pushing the limits.

Sam Halmrast

Sophomore Sam Halmrast competes in a vertical world of neon plastic. Halmrast competes for the Stone Gardens climbing team and was a finalist at divisionals in 2018 (with climbers from Alaska, Washington, and Oregon). He began his climbing career only a few years ago.

“Over one summer I did a climbing trip,” Halmrast said. “When I got home I took a bunch of my friends climbing for my birthday and that was right when I was turning 14 — and then I joined team”

When he initially applied, there was no room on the team for him. However, Halmrast persisted.

“I just kept showing up anyways, 5 days a week to like all the team practices basically and they made an extra spot for me” Halmrast said.

Competitive climbing is not scored on speed. Instead, competitors are scored on their ability to complete difficult routes within a time limit. Scores are therefore based on how far the climber is able to get up the route.

“The difficult part of competitions,” Halmrast said, “is reading the correct path up the wall in a very limited amount of time.”

While climbing is inherently a physical challenge, the sport is just as much of a mental challenge.

“Most climbing is really more of a mental test than physical,” Halmrast said. “The climbers who understand their limitations the best are always the ones who end up winning.”

However, climbers still need to have a strong body to keep up with their technique.

“When you’re training for climbing you’re training every different muscle group, sometimes all at once,” Halmrast said.

Although climbing is growing, for now it remains a niche, and new, sport.

“Competitions have only been around for maybe 20 years at the most,” Halmrast said.

Halmrast has high hopes for the sport, but urges more people to get involved.

“I haven’t brought one [friend] to a gym who didn’t like it,” Halmrast said. “Even if you don’t want to climb at the level that I do, I just think that more people should try climbing.”

Helena Clements

While many kids are at home watching Seabiscuit, Junior Helena Clements is living that dream. Clements has been riding horses since 6th grade as a horse jumper. She believes one of the most special aspects of equestrianism is the relationship with the horse.

“I think it’s just unique,” Clements said. “You get to work with an animal and have a partnership with an animal. It’s really fun to have that bond.”

Competitions usually take place over three days, with the riders participating in multiple jumping classes. The classes determine the format of the competition, but they all take place on a course of obstacles with many twists and turns.

“I usually go in the morning, around 7:00 am and I’m there until like 5:00,” Clements said. “I’m mainly there all day watching other people go and then I’ll compete.”

One of the reasons for the relative obscurity of the sport might be the price.

“It’s an expensive sport so a lot of people might not be able to do it,” Clements said. “Also, I think that when many people think of horseback riding they think of racing so they don’t really understand the other side of the sport.”

There are some misconceptions about the sport, which also hinder its’ popularity.

“Many people, if you asked them, they won’t think it’s a sport because they think the horses do all the work and that as a rider you don’t really do much” Clements said.

Helena hopes that people will begin to appreciate the sport more.

“Many people don’t give the riders enough credit,” Clements said. “It’s harder than most people think and it’s just a really fun sport.”