We have a strong youth climbing community here in the Twin Cities and it is only going to grow stronger. 10 year old Abigail York is evidence of that. She began climbing just over a year ago and found herself on the national stage in February at the ABS14 Youth National Championships in Colorado Springs.
Locally, Abigail won first place at the 20th annual Passion for Flashin’ comp in the Women’s Advanced division. Yes, at just 10 years old, she took on 20 adult and teenage women and came out on top of the podium. With climbing being considered for the Olympics in 2020, Abigail is determined to continue training hard, competing harder, and to someday climb atop a podium on the world stage, gold medal in hand.
In the meantime, I do believe we will see much more of Abigail locally and nationally as she continues to pursue her dream. I caught up with her by email to chat about her ABS14 experience and what comes next.
How old are you and how long have you been climbing?
I am ten years old. I started climbing January 2012.
What got you started in the sport?
My brother had a birthday party at Vertical Endeavors and I got hooked immediately.
Where are you climbing the most?
Vertical Endeavors St. Paul
Have you climbed outside? Where? Favorite place/route?
My first outside climbing was Garden of the Gods, snake pit after finals at Nationals.
How did you decide to try competing at climbing?
I love climbing and I wanted to find out how good I was.
What was your first competition and how did you do?
My first competition was Jug-or-Not 2012. I had a lot of fun and finished in the middle of my group.
What other comps have you done? How did you do?
My VE coach Weijing Tilleskjor encouraged me and my parents to get two competitions in so I would be eligible for the bouldering series. Weijing believed in me that I had a chance to make it to Nationals. My first bouldering comp was in Madison, Wisconsin 2012. I took third. Next I competed at Octboulderfest 2012 and took second. I took first at Passion for Flashin 2013 and won a sweet Organic Crash Pad.
Tell me about your journey to ABS14 Nationals.
I placed 7th at regionals at Upper Limits in St. Louis. I got worried that I wouldn’t do good at divisionals because I barely made it so I climbed more (4-6 times per week) and trained harder. I was encouraged and pushed by my new great friends on the VE team. I started climbing with the VE Minneapolis team and became friends with Eliza Broan (also Youth D competitor). I also got some great coaching from other coaches. I took second at divisionals at Hoosier Heights in Indianapolis .
How did you find out about the comp?
My coach Weijing Tileskjor pulled me aside one day and told me I had to try for it.
What were the steps to getting there?
Before climbing I enjoyed gymnastics. My favorite activity was bars. I have played on rings in our basement since I was four. This helped me develop muscles and upper body strength. I prepared with lots of climbing, improving my footwork, dynamic movement, sequencing and handling slopers. My Dad built me a 9 by 12 foot bouldering wall with an overhang in our backyard to help me practice.
Did you have a goal of reaching finals? Did you think you would?
My goal was to make it to Nationals. I had no idea how I would do.
What was it like to be climbing in front of so many people?
I like the attention. It makes me climb better. One of my favorite parts of climbing is hearing my family, teammates and friends cheer me on.
Did your family come to Colorado to watch and support you?
Yes, my parents, aunt and two family friends came to cheer me on.
At the end of Semis, you were in 10th place. What were you thinking heading into Finals?
Hey, the worst I can do is 10th place and that is pretty good.
You ended up taking 5th place out of 35 girls your age. How do you feel about your accomplishment?
I was in shock and very excited. I thought it was cool to represent VE as 1 of three finalist.
Can you describe your performance in Finals? How many boulders did you flash? Top?
I flashed the first one. It was really fun. I got mad at myself because I forgot to sequence it. My second problem I got about half way up. I got stuck on a tricky canvasing move. My third route I got ¾ of the way up. I got stuck on a dyno to a slopey hold.
Do you think you will try to return next year for ABS15? If you do, will you be in Youth D again or move to Youth C?
Definitely, I will try to return. My goal is get a USA Team Climbing invitation. I really, really want an invitation so I need to finish in the top 4. I will move up to Youth C.
What is next for you?
The SCS season. I will try my best to get to Nationals. I also want to climb outdoors this summer. My dad is going to learn how to lead belay and start climbing with me.
Any comps coming up?
I will compete at Climb Iowa, Jug-or-Not, regionals and hopeful divisionals and nationals.
Will you continue training with the VE Mountain Goats? How is the team experience for you?
Yes I will continue with the VE Mountain Goats. Everyone is really nice. I learn a lot and have lots of fun. My climbing teammates are becoming great friends.
What is your goal with climbing?
Have lots of fun and do my best. Any day that I climb is a great day even if I take a bad fall it is always fun.
Do you have role models in the sport?
Do you hope to be competing for a long time? Are you a competitive person or was this just for fun?
I want to compete for a long time. My dream is that climbing becomes an Olympic sport and that I will represent USA. I like seeing how good I am. I love the suspense of competing and it is really fun.
Abigail at ABS14 Youth Divisionals
Abigail on the 2013 Passion for Flashin’ Women’s Advanced Finals route