Climb North sends pair to bouldering nationals |
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Climb North sends pair to bouldering nationals

Devon Moore
Gavin Youker will compete at the 2019 Bouldering Youth National Championships.
Gavin Youker (left) and Andre Marcias will compete at the 2019 Bouldering Youth National Championships.
Andre Marcias will compete at the 2019 Bouldering Youth National Championships.

Pittsburgh might not be located out west, but there’s still plenty of enthusiasm about the sport of climbing at Climb North in Hampton.

The indoor climbing gym at Jewart’s recently sent two individuals to the Bouldering Youth National Championships, putting them in the top 50 nationally in their respective age groups.

Andre Marcias, 17, and Gavin Youker, 11, competed Feb. 8-10 at Deschutes County Fairgrounds Expo Center in Bend, Ore.

Youker finished 16th, and Marcias finished 40th.

Climbing coach Justin Mech, who made the trip along with the boys and their families, said both have special attributes that make them among the best amateur climbers in the country.

“Gavin is just something special,” said Mech, who saw Youker develop quickly in a beginner’s class last year.

“He’s tall for his age, he’s calm, smart, very aware of his body. He’s not your typical 11-year-old. Some of the kids have been in the gym for six years and are never going to make it to that point.”

Youker competed in the 10-and-under division because of his age at qualifying time. Next year, he will face new challenges in a new division.

“It was pretty cool to see all the kids climbing and training (in Oregon),” said Youker, who plans to continue climbing well into his teens.

“I did not expect to do so well. I mean, I’m pretty active outside, climbing trees and stuff.”

Marcias competed in the 16-17-year-old division. He has a family inspiration for rock climbing: his father, Guillamue.

“I went climbing a little outside with him, then I started going to the gym,” he said. “So that’s how I got involved with the team, it’s been about six years.”

Though Marcias was not happy with finishing in the bottom half of his age division, Mech thinks it will push him.

“I tried to remind him after he cooled off that, ‘you made it to this point,’ ” he said. “He’s an absolute beast in the gym, and it just shows him how much stronger he can be.

“Those kids are some of the most polite, positive kids you’ll ever meet. Andre never got bummed out. He went straight back to work and had fun with it.”

They didn’t need to win anything to enjoy the sights of Bend, backdropped to the west by the Cascade Mountains.

“It was a little drop in performance there,” Marcias said. “It was an excuse to go to Oregon, I guess. Even though you don’t get to climb much outdoors, there’s some pretty good-looking stuff out there.”

Climbing outdoors, according to Mech, is the ultimate goal of what indoor rock climbing teaches you.

“Some people like the social part of it. Some do it for the exercise,” said Mech, who noted the growth in the climbing industry recently.

“Some take it to the next level and go outside. The older ones, that’s something that I always try to force. Indoor climbing is just training to go outside. These days it’s changed, and it’s a very social and millennial thing for the sport.”

Climb North at Jewart’s has caught the buzz. It celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and Mech estimates it to be one of the top five or 10 oldest climbing gyms in the country.

“It’s a great starting point for anyone who wants one day to make it outdoors,” Mech said.

That includes Youker.

“I want to start climbing outside,” he said. “Soon … when the weather gets warmer.”

Said Mech: “There are some kids who want to do the real thing. These movements are something they can train for once they get outside.”

He coaches roughly 84 kids ages 6 to 18 — many who didn’t feel a fit in school-organized sports, though he noted seeing a mix of multi-sport athletes more recently.

“It might be the physical and mental challenge,” Mech said. “You’re looking at these holes, and it’s a puzzle. You try to figure out the moves and how your body is going to go, and then the physical part comes in. They take it as a challenge to get to the top.”

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