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    April 20, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Reaching for the highest peak possible without worrying about how high the other competitors are climbing will be a key to success for the three members of Liberty University’s rock climbing team entering their first USA Climbing Collegiate National Championships, set for Thursday through Sunday at Reach Climbing and Fitness in Bridgeport, Pa., near Philadelphia.

    Senior Gwen Mars and sophomore Arabella King will represent the Lady Flames in fields of 79 and 75 climbers in the women’s bouldering and lead/top rope disciplines, while freshman Dylan Reese qualified as one of 83 contestants in men’s bouldering, after their top-13 individual finishes at the March 27 Mid-Atlantic Divisional Championships in Morgantown, W.Va. They are the only Liberty climbers to compete at this level since Tori Perkins finished runner-up in the women’s sport division in 2018, the third year of the program.

    “I don’t have too many expectations for them (but) think that they will be in the upper half of the competition,” Flames Head Coach Tyler Campbell said, noting this will be the first collegiate national championships held since 2019. “It’s been a long time since I have been to one of these larger competitions, but the most important thing for them will be to focus on their own ability and not how everyone else around them is doing.”

    The Mid-Atlantic Division is one of seven in the United States that feed into the national competition, which will award the winning athletes bids to represent Team USA at the 2022 World University Championship of Sport Climbing, set for June 14-17 in Innsbruck, Austria. The other divisions are Northeast, Southeast, Heartland, South Central, Rocky Mountain, and West Coast.

    Liberty got a sneak peek at the Reach Climbing and Fitness facility that will be used for the national championships when it traveled there for a Mid-Atlantic Divisional qualifier in early March.

    Reese will begin competition before Mars or King as bouldering qualifiers get underway at 9 a.m. Thursday and run through 3:15 p.m. Three lead climbing qualifying rounds will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday with bouldering and lead semifinals scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, and finals set for Sunday at those same times. Semifinals and finals will be streamed on the USA Climbing YouTube channel.

    “It will be a big challenge and a lot of climbing,” Campbell said. “They will be climbing every day, Thursday through Sunday, as long as they continue to place high enough to advance to the next round.”

    Only Mars will be graduating, so King and Reese can use this weekend’s competition as a foundation for the future, as they seek to continue to climb up the collegiate ranks and return to nationals.