Maddy Morris is a 17-year-old Houston native whose strength and talent makes it seem like she’s been climbing for a lot longer than only 5 years! She’s competed in youth climbing competitions on the national level, but this year she decided to test her skill in the ABS 16 Open National Bouldering Championships held in Madison Wisconsin last month. She rocked the Qualifying Round and secured a place in semi-finals alongside the strongest women in the country! Maddy placed 19th overall and is psyched to train and get even stronger for next year.
Read on to hear about her experiences at the competition, how she trained, and what her goals are for the future.
This was your first year to compete at the 2015 ABS Open National Bouldering Championships. What made you decide to compete?
I decided to compete in Open this year because I felt like I could actually (kind of) keep up with some of the adults. Plus, I really enjoy competing and testing myself… comps are the place to push my limits. I feel like I get better after every competition because I learn from my mistakes and how to work though them under pressure.
What happens behind the scenes at ABS? What’s it like to be in isolation for a long time? Do you try to stay focused on climbing or just relax?
Isolation was actually one of my favorite parts of the whole competition! It was surreal to see my climbing idols warming up next to me. Watching them in real life is so different than the videos or magazines. Having them next to me made me feel like I could be as good as them someday. Although, it was a little intimidating to know that they were MY competition. Other than that, isolation was pretty calm at open nationals, but once the name before me was called, I got the jitters. I was questioning: did I warm up well enough, did I drink enough water, did I eat enough? But, it’s not like I could have changed anything at that point.
Overall, the problems were pretty tricky. Trickier than the routes I normally attempt. Normally, I am able to jump on a climb without looking at it too much, but Nationals is different. When the route setter has an intended way of doing a move, they do anything in their power to force it. This makes it hard to finish the problem any other way.
What’s it like to have a larger audience, announcer, and know that a live stream is being broadcast? Does that affect your climbing?
I love it!! It feels so rewarding when the announcer calls your name and everyone in the audience starts to cheer! I get this uncontrollable smile on my face and an overwhelming feeling of happiness, which has been proven to make me climb better!
In qualifiers, you sent problem 1, struggled through problems 2, 3, and 4 (like most of the competitors) but still managed to nab a send of problem 5. How do you re-focus after making a mistake or falling on an earlier problem?
Falling constantly on a problem is the hardest thing to jump back from, especially if it is a route that you know you can get. To re-focus, I have to clear my mind of my mistakes, drink some water, and prepare to crush the next climb. I also like to listen and hum along to the music that plays in the auditorium while climbing.
What were your expectations going into the event this year?
Since I beefed up my training prior to the competition, I expected to improve from my previous National competitions. All this extra training that I did had to help with something. Right? My mind was prepared and I was much more confident than in previous years.
How did you train for this year’s competition?
To prepare for the comp, I climbed as much as I could at Stone Moves climbing gym. I know from experience that the moves at ABS Nationals are normally showy and dynamic–jumpstarts, flexibility and lots of slopers! All previous weaknesses of mine. Every practice I tried to work on my weaknesses and after failing A LOT, I think I progressed a little.
If you compete again what would you do differently–either in terms of training, or from a mental preparation perspective?
More power endurance for sure! Physically, I feel like my first try is my best and only good attempt. Anytime after that, I can’t even close my hands. Next year, my life will revolve around 4×4’s. Mentally, I will only improve over time. Experience is a very important aspect of climbing.
How does competing at Open Nationals compare with your experience at Youth Nationals?
I think the routes at Open Nationals were more challenging than Youth Nationals. Other than that, the only difference was that Open competitors were a lot more relaxed and sociable. Youth competitors seemed more chaotic and serious. However, both were a lot of fun to me!
Thanks Maddy for sharing your stories and best of luck as you train hard to crush at Sport Climbing Nationals this year!