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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Climbing Competition Draws All Ages, Skill Levels

Fourth Annual Whipper Snapper held Sunday, April 3.

2016-04-14
Kristine Goodrich, Mankato Free Press, 4-4-2016

Cameron Jaeger came down from the Twin Cities to volunteer over 30 hours preparing the rock climbing wall at Minnesota State University for Sunday’s Whipper Snapper competition.

He crashed on fellow volunteers’ couches while he spent three days, including a 16-hour day on Saturday, removing holds from the wall and setting new routes.

Jaeger competed in a few of the Minnesota State University, Mankato Adventure Education Program’s biannual climbing competitions before joining the volunteer crew.

“It’s more fun watching people enjoy all your hard work,” he said.

Jaeger is one of numerous volunteers who, along with Adventure Education Program staff, help make the competitions happen, said program coordinator Sam Steiger.

“There is an immense amount of time that goes into this,” Steiger said. “We work really hard but we also play really hard.”

The fourth annual Whipper Snapper on Sunday was expected to draw approximately 75 competitors from across Minnesota and a few adjoining states to Minnesota State Mankato’s Myers Field House. The contest is open to climbers of all ages and abilities.

Competitors choose from four levels of competition. There is no age limits for the divisions. In the beginners division there were climbers as young as 8 competing against middle-aged adults who were new to the sport.

The contest is live-streamed on the web so competitors’ long-distance friends and family can watch. One year they had a web viewer from Japan, Steiger said.

Each division has 11 climbing challenges of increasing difficulty for competitors to try. The routes are colorcoded and climbers are challenged not to deviate from the route. If they make it to the top of the 32-foot-tall wall they earn points of varied amounts depending on the difficulty of the route. In the top two hardest divisions there is a playoff round for the best climbers.

The top three male and top three female climbers in each division earn a memento handmade by Steiger and volunteers; this year it was a wood plaque.

The top two female finishers in the beginners division were 9-year-old twins Lauren and Ragen Weigel from Rochester. They were among the dozen youth members of a climbing team from the new Roca Climbing and Fitness in Rochester. They started climbing only a few months ago and the Whipper Snapper was their second competition, their mother said.

Ragen said the keys to a good climb are to remember to “keep your hips to the wall, go slow and have fun.”

The sisters and other members of Team Roca had support from coaches, including Jeremy Schaar, owner of Roca Climbing and Fitness.

“Your sister used her knee on that [hold],” Schaar was heard telling Ragen during one of her climbs. “Remember to shake up and chalk up,” he advised after Ragen had climbed higher. Words of advice and encouragement were heard coming not just from coaches, but also from the volunteer belayers and judges and even from fellow competitors.

“It’s really all just about having fun,” said Krista Willey, a Minnesota State Mankato senior and first-time competitor.

Willey started climbing a few months ago when a friend who was taking climbing as a physical education class convinced her to come along to an open climb night. The wall is open most nights to all university students for free and to community members for a small fee. Willey now comes to open climbs multiple times a week.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at www.mankatofreepress.com.

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