BMC Open Youth Competition – Sunderland

Youth Open Competition – Sunderland - Dominic Burns on his finals route, 159 kb
Youth Open Competition – Sunderland - Dominic Burns on his finals route
© Eddie Cooper

The 10th of December saw the BMC Open Youth Lead Competion at Sunderland Wall.

The number of entries may have been down on previous years but the standard of the climbing was sky high with 2 super finals required to determine the podium slots.

This event was to be used to help select the GB Youth Team for 2012 but there was still a bit of 'easing in' to the first routes so that climbers could settle their nerves. Route setters (Mark Pretty, Tom Randall and Gary Vincent) had taken over the main walls making good use of the massive 28 ft long barrel wall in the centre. This posed a challenge to the video camera operators trying to ensure they could smoothly record the whole route and there was much adjusting of tripods, shifting of seats and craning of necks trying to make sure none of the action was missed. Parents and climbers jostled for a comfy spot studying their upcoming challenges and after a briefing from Rob Adie those first on the start list roped in.

With some sharing of routes we had 6 climbers on the wall and right from the start there were 'tops' (climbers reaching the top of the route). In fact on the first qualifiers there were a total of 48 tops representing 50% of the competitors.

The youngest category (Youth C) had climbers born in 1999 and 2000. There were 13 girls and 9 boys many of whom had faced each other at the YCS finals in Wolverhampton earlier this year. At the end of the qualifier there were 3 double tops in the boys and after a final climb on a barrel-based green route that had a nasty crux that threw off many of the older climbers who tried it, there was only half a point between winner Dominic Vincent and joint runners up David Taylor and Jack Graham. In the girls only Hannah Slaney took forward a double top and further demonstrated her strength to finish ahead of Georgia Woodcock and Kirsten Gray.

We knew Youth B (YOB 1997/98) was going to provide entertaining climbing but I don't think anyone could have predicted how much. There were 18 climbers in the girls' category including Molly Thompson-Smith, fresh from her final's spot in the EYC in Kranj three weeks earlier. With 7 tops in Q1 and 4 in Q2, including an amazing climb from Flo Tilley that drew cheers from the crowd for its determination, the final was awaited eagerly. Molly once again demonstrated her remarkable combination of grace and strength pulling ahead of the crowd to take first place ahead of joint second placed Tara Hayes and Gracie Martin.

There were 13 boys in the Youth B category and they started with 8 tops. A further successful 7 tops in Q2 should have been a portent as route setters and spectators watched in awe as even the final route couldn't separate 5 of the climbers. A super final was required and only the use of the Junior Male finals route was testing enough to sort them out. Northern Ireland's Dominic Burns climbed superbly to take the title with Alex Waterhouse in second and Billy Ridal in third. With such a strong showing next year's YOC is going to have to up the grades.

Youth Open Competition – Sunderland - Checking out the routes, 98 kb
Youth Open Competition – Sunderland - Checking out the routes
© Rachel Carr

Youth A (YOB 1995/96) had 17 boys and saw 10 Q1 tops. The Q2 route was harder and only saw 4 tops but the size of the category meant 6 went through to the final route where Buster Martin finally secured his first championship well ahead of Sam Brannigan and joint third placed Connor Byrne and Jonny White.

Youth A Girls had 9 competitors but the 6 tops in Q1 couldn't be matched on the barrel green with only Sarah Pashley making it all the way. She repeated this success on the final climb to take the title ahead of Rachel Carr and Rebekah Drummond. Rachel has to be commended for perhaps the most spectacular fall of the day after a foot slip on the final hold as she was clipping saw her plummet half way down the wall to shrieks from the audience.

Female Juniors (YOB 1993/94) had 5 competitors including two climbers from the Northern Ireland Team that had come over for the competition. Four girls topped the first route -a testing, sustained red on the left side of the barrel where the arête was out of bounds. Their second route was the barrel green that had already seen off most of the Youth A Girls, but Lucy Mitchell from Ireland and Charlotte Garden sailed past and repeated this feat in their final forcing the another Super Final. Once again placed on the Junior Male finals route the girls acquitted themselves well with Charlotte achieving the same score as one of the Male Junior finalists.

Competitions generally end with the Male Junior Category and there were 10 competitors vying to take on the mantle recently vacated by Ed Hamer. Four tops in Q1 and again in Q2 saw 5 climbers go through to the finals where Luke Tilley triumphed over Jonny Field and Jonny Stocking.

The 2 super finals meant the day finished nearly 12 hours after it had started. The Sunderland Wall café had kept us well fed and as a round-up to one of Team GB's most successful years a small party was held to wish Ed all the best in his move up to the Seniors and to thank climbers, management and volunteers for all their hard work throughout the year. Here's to an even better year in 2012.

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