As you catch up with your friends and classmates about their summer adventures, you may notice that one of them, Mia Bawendi ’20, isn’t here. Instead of meeting new teachers and finding new classrooms today, Mia is taking on a new challenge: representing the United States at the International Federation of Sport Climbing Youth World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.
Lasting from August 30 through September 1o, the championship hosts 1,300 competitors from 65 countries to participate in a variety of climbing events. Today sMia will compete in the Female Youth B Speed Climbing group—for 13- to 15-year-olds—before returning to school tomorrow.
Mia’s journey to Worlds began in June at the regional and divisional competitions in Concord, New Hampshire, and Randolph, Massachusetts, respectively. By showing up to these first two competitions, Mia automatically earned entry to the National Speed Rock Climbing Championships in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Nationals began on July 13, when Mia placed first in both the qualifying round and the semi-finals. Two days later in the finals, Mia raced against 49 climbers and came in first again by climbing up an indoor 15-meter rock wall in 10.55 seconds, beating the second place finisher by one hundredth of a second. Although the round required everyone to do two climbs, Mia’s first clinched her spot to compete in Worlds.
Mia said she felt confident beforehand that she could perform well in the competition.
“I knew that if I didn’t mess up, and if I got a 10-second time, I would make Worlds,” she said, explaining that in both the qualifying and semifinal rounds, she was the only climber to race at that speed.
This year marked Mia’s third trip to Nationals. In 2016 and 2015, she placed seventh and eighth, respectively.
Mia attributed her improvement to extra practice prior to the competition.
“This year, I went to a training camp beforehand at Stone Summit Kennesaw, which helped me to get used to the exact wall I was going to compete on. The coaches at the camp are also some of the best speed climbers in the world,” she said.
In addition to doing exercises on and off the wall to increase her speed, Mia said she also simulated competitions and did strength training.
“We might climb up and down a rope for 15 minutes straight or do a workout with alternating pull-ups and push-ups,” she explained.
Beyond participating in the speed championships, Mia has competed in three national events for bouldering—a shorter distance of rock climbing—and three national races for sport climbing, which uses a taller wall and tests how high contestants can climb on a rope before falling.
Mia began climbing four years ago after quitting gymnastics and deciding to attend a summer camp at Central Rock Gym, where she still practices. Once she started climbing, she said, she enjoyed it immediately.
“I like how it is a different challenge every time and that you have to think about the position of your whole body,” she added. “I like speed climbing in particular because it feels like I’m flying up a wall.”
Mia’s mom, Amy Ross P’20, said she always feels a bit nervous watching her daughter compete.
“It’s pretty stressful watching Mia climb in competitions since there’s a very fine line between staying on the wall and falling off,” she said. “But one of the great things about climbing is that there’s a strong mental component to it. Technique and figuring out sequences for hand and foot placement are as important as the more physical aspects of strength and conditioning.”
She added, “It’s both a thrill and an honor that [Mia] will be wearing a USA team jersey and representing our country on the world stage.”
After Worlds, Mia will compete in the Pan American Games in Montreal, Canada, in early November.
“I’m most looking forward to getting faster,” she said.