This year, USA Climbing’s ABS Open National Championships were streamed live online for the first time by a climbing media company called Louder Than 11. In Minnesota, some of us were glued to our monitors not only watching pros like Alex Puccio and Daniel Woods battling for victory, but also to see home grown heroine, 16 year old Kyra Condie, in her first ever ABS Open National where she took 9th place overall.
One week later, Kyra returned to the same auditorium for her 5th appearance at ABS Youth National Championships to successfully defend her title as the number one female in the Youth A division. Unfortunately, live streaming this event was not in USA Climbing’s budget and updates coming out of Colorado Springs were scarce.
So, with the 2013 American Bouldering Series all wrapped up, I reached out to Kyra to ask about her experience in the big leagues, retaining her title in Youths, and what comes next.
So much to ask about, let’s start with Nationals. You were competing against some of the best bouldering talent in the country, if not the world. What was that experience like for you?
It was an incredible experience! I went into the competition knowing I was stronger than I had ever been before, but having no idea what to expect. I knew the women I was competing against had years of competition experience that I did not, but I was hoping I was good enough to maybe keep up.
You’ve competed in Youth Nationals before, is this your first time in Open Nationals?
I competed in Open SCS [Sport Climbing Series] nationals last year in April and got 8th place. But yes, this was my first Open ABS nationals.
How is the experience different? Did you feel more pressure?
I actually felt way less pressure at Open nationals than I did at Youth. I tried not to put any expectations on myself for the competition, thinking of it more as a bonus competition than a competition I was trying to really place well at. And I think this helped me actually place fairly well in the end!
You had a strong showing in Qualifiers and ended Semis in ninth place. How did you feel about your performance? Did you meet your expectations for yourself?
I was really happy with how I placed! My goal going into the comp was to make semifinals. It was kind of disappointing not making finals, because I was so close. If I had topped my third or fourth semifinals climbs I would have been in 6th! And I was going to the finish on both of those climbs. But overall I was really happy with how I climbed!
How did you prepare for Nationals this year? How was this different than past years/other comps?
I definitely got really serious about training within the six months [prior to the comp]. I started going down to Colorado on an almost monthly basis to train with Kris Peters at Movement Climbing and Fitness. He really motivated me to be more athletic overall in order to progress in my climbing, and I’ve noticed a HUGE difference. I always thought the way to get better at climbing was to just climb, but since I started my training schedule, I’ve improved a ton. I don’t think I would have won nationals again without all the training I’ve been doing.
This year I was definitely more confident going into nationals than I had been before. I had more comp experience and was stronger than I’ve ever been! But of course I was still nervous, because anything can happen.
Will you be returning to Nationals next year? How do you think it will be different for you next time?
I will for sure be competing next year! I love the competition scene and all the people who compete. Next year I’m planning on training even more and hopefully that will be enough to maybe make finals at Open!
This was your 5th ABS Youth National Championships, do you feel comfortable going there now? Still get nervous at all?
I feel more comfortable with how the competition works now, but of course I’m still nervous! Like I said, anything can happen. I’ve seen some of the best competitors I know fall apart, but I’ve learned that the best thing you can do before a competition is keep a calm head. The best way I’ve found to do this is listening to a “competition” playlist that I have on my iPod. During finals, I had my music turned up so loud that I couldn’t hear anything until I took my headphones out to climb.
You took first in Youths last year, how did that experience help you returning this year? Did you feel any added pressure defending your title?
It was a really different feeling heading into the competition for sure. I tried not to put any added expectations on mysef, and I think this helped me a lot. Competing in the Open Nationals the weekend before really helped to relieve some of my nerves also. Even just climbing on the wall gave me some great practice. The slab on that wall is really tricky, and the problems I had at Open nationals really gave me some experience right before for youth.
The week before Youths, you competed against Megan Mascarenas in Open Nationals. She made it to finals and finished in fourth place before returning to compete in Youths. Was she the strongest competitor that you faced in Youths? Do you think about your competitors when you are at a comp like this or do you just focus on your own climbing?
She is of course an incredibly strong climber, but my category (Female Youth A) was completely stacked this year with strong girls; Annalisa Flynn, Megan Mascarenas, Hannah Tolson, Zoe Steinberg, Laurel Todd, and a lot of others. I think any of us could have won nationals; it came down to a tricky slab problem and keeping calm under the pressure of finals. I try to focus on my own climbing, and not the other competitors, because my own climbing is the only thing I have in my control.
There was no live feed of Youths, but I understand that you flashed all three problems after entering finals in fourth place. Did the boulders play to your strengths in any way? Did you stall on any of the problems or overcome any adversity to get the flash on any of them?
Yeah I flashed all three! The first climb was a slab climb and was incredibly tricky, and right at the beginning I realized I was doing it wrong, so I pushed myself back onto the volume I was standing on and reset myself and my thoughts. But that was the only climb I didn’t feel great on. The other two climbs were about committing to moves, contact strength, and power. And I think those are three of my biggest strengths in climbing.
How was your confidence level heading into finals?
I was in fourth heading into finals, a spot that I was OK with, but I was hoping to climb well enough to move up to podium. I felt less nervous than I had for qualifiers and semifinals, and really had my game face on. Something about the atmosphere in finals (the lights, large crowd, and excitement level) makes me climb really well.
Did you feel like you were behind heading into finals?
I knew the day before I hadn’t climbed my best, so I was definitely determined not to let that happen again. So I think that going into finals in 4th made me even more motivated to climb well.
Did you think that you needed to flash all three to get the win?
I had no idea how well I’d need to do to win. But going out into finals, and sitting in the chair, I told myself that I would flash all three.
It turns out that one of the setters for Youths was MN’s own Nic Oklobzija. Did he set any problems for your division? Is there any advantage to knowing setters styles before a comp?
He didn’t set any of my finals climbs actually, but he did set my third semifinal climb. I don’t think this is an advantage or anything, because you have no idea who set your routes until after the comp is over. That, and you don’t really think about the style of the climb while you’re in the heat of the moment in a competition. You’re focused more on getting the problem done and just reading the sequence right.
What is next for you?
My next comp is Open SCS nationals on April 5th! Then the youth SCS nationals in June.
In May I’m competing in the Dominion Riverrock competition in Richmond, VA. It looks like a super exciting competition and I’m really excited! Also as soon as it warms up a little bit I’m hoping to send some stuff at Willow River and some hard boulders in Sandstone or Taylors Falls!
Your win secured you an invitation to Team USA, upcoming events? Anything international?
The world cup in Vail!
Youth world championships in Canada this summer for speed climbing! Hopefully sport climbing as well but I have to qualify for that first.
Will you continue traveling to train in CO or was that specific to preparing for this competition?
I’m planning on going to Colorado a few times to go train, once with Noah Ridge in a few weeks and maybe a few more times. I’m also going to a pre-nationals training camp at Stone Summit before the Youth SCS Nationals in June.
Flashing Youth Qualifier #3
Flashing Youth Finals #3