Whitman Climbing Team Ascends to New Heights in NC3 Rankings


Photo by Natalie Mutter

Most Whitman students know about the huge climbing wall and it’s popularity regardless of whether or not they actually climb. But what students might not know is that Whitman has a club climbing team that is currently ranked first in the NC3 (Northwest Collegiate Climbing Circuit).

The NC3 is made up eleven schools in the Pacific Northwest, ranging from small liberal arts schools like Whitman and Puget Sound to big state schools like Oregon State and Washington State. There are four different categories in competitions: beginner, intermediate, advanced and open.

Unlike other sports where the competition design is similar at different locations, no climbing competition is the same as another; the routes and difficulty change for every event.

“The gym that’s hosting the competition will set a bunch of different boulder problem routes, and they each get point values, which are indications of how hard they are. If you climb it the first time without falling, you get what’s called a flash bonus,” said Brooke Terkovich, one of the team’s co-captains.

From there scores are self-reported and attested by judges and fellow competitors as explained further by Terkovich and fellow captain Shane Randle.

Photo by Natalie Mutter
Photo by Natalie Mutter

“You write down the number, the route, whether or not you got a flash bonus,” Terkovich said. Climbers get flash bonuses by finishing a climb, without falling, on the first attempt. If it takes more than one attempt, the climber must report on his or her scorecard how many times it took to complete. “The top five scoring routes you get throughout the day [add up to] your top score, and you are placed in order of that top score,” Terkovich said.

“Only those top five scores count towards your score, but you can climb as much and as many routes as you want,” added Randle.

The team has gotten off to a terrific start in 2016, sitting in first place overall after four competitions. There are six competitions still to come, including the Sweet Onion Crank, hosted by Whitman as the penultimate competition of the year.

First-year Julia Mason and sophomore NoahLani Litwinsella, each have the top score in the women’s and men’s divisions respectively. Mason has had a particularly impressive debut performance this season, winning four competitions while climbing at the collegiate level for the first time. Joining Litwinsella in the top five for men’s individual scores is first-year Fields Ford. In the women’s top five, Raquel Peterson (second), Charlotte Simons (fourth), and Mary Kampa (fifth) are also enjoying great seasons.

“We’re doing really well this year. Especially compared to the past, this is the best year we’ve had,” Randle said.

Litwinsella, a co-captain, added similar sentiments.

“We’re doing really, really well. We’ve won two of the competitions as a team and have gotten high points in the other ones,” said Litwinsella.

Litwinsella credits the pre-season training and hard work of all the climbers for the team’s early success.

Photo by Natalie Mutter
Photo by Natalie Mutter

“We started off training really early last semester and have just kind of been working at it. We have a lot of new climbers and they’ve all gotten a lot better. People who started out having never climbed before as beginners are bumping into the advanced category,” he said.

As a club team at such a small school, recruiting can be a major obstacle, but much like other club sports like frisbee and cycling, the climbing team is building a reputation that makes it one of the most attractive destinations for young climbers in the Northwest. While the team doesn’t usually reach out to high schoolers and directly recruit, the mere presence of the team and Whitman’s great climbing gym is often enough.

“Having a climbing gym and a climbing team at Whitman is one of the things that helps influence their decision,” said Randle.

“One of the big things is Whitman’s climbing gym attracts climbers to look at the school anyways. Last year two of the climbers who are on the team came and shadowed practices”, Litwinsella said. “We were actually surprised by how many strong new climbers came in because we didn’t know about a bunch of them ahead of time. One of our goals for next year is trying to reach out to a lot more climbers”, he added.

Whitman’s Climbing Team is in a great position right now and has an opportunity to join the other top club sports as powerhouse programs. They are currently first in the Northwest circuit and are being lead almost exclusively by underclassmen. If they further improve their recruiting methods and continue to get so many great young climbers, Whitman may compete at a high level for many years to come.