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Pushing the Limit

Garrett Short
Created: February 06, 2020 11:28 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Rock climbing has found a home in Rochester, and 14-year-old Erik Cmiel has made the most of his time climbing at Roca Climbing and Fitness, as he prepares for the Bouldering Youth Nationals this weekend.

Cmiel got a late start to competitive rock climbing, picking it up about two and a half years ago. But his coaches say he has made up for that with natural talent and countless hours of practice.

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"He was a good climber and he had good natural talent," Roca Head Coach Jordan Hyzer said. "But it's kind of been in this past year where he's just exploded. He's progressed very quickly. And I think it has to do a lot with his work ethic."

His rock climbing journey started at birthday parties. From there, he convinced his parents to enroll him in a climbing class. Since then he has grown exponentially as a climber, even surprising himself with how far he has come.

"When I started I wasn't too strong, but it's motivating as you keep going and you keep getting stronger and stronger. Physically I've grown a lot, but then also mentally," Cmiel said.

His coaches have trained with him to get stronger and faster, but they've also trained his mind. Cmiel says he was afraid of heights when he first started. Now he feels at home scaling the wall.

Cmiel's favorite form of climbing is bouldering, which is a shorter but more challenging climb, with no rope or harness used. He says it plays into his strengths, which are climbing on overhangs and using his upper body. The wall may be shorter in bouldering, but the climbing is physically demanding.

"At such a high level of bouldering, even the smallest little mistake will spit you off the wall," Hyzer said.

Cmiel loves the challenge. His parents, on the other hand, have a hard time not worrying about him.

"At the moment where you can see that he's probably going to fall, yeah, there's that apprehensive moment that's there. But you kind of get used to it and know that he's not going to likely get hurt. And to see him get right back up and charge the hill again, that's satisfying as a parent," Erik's father Paul said.

The National Championships this weekend are in Bend, Oregon, against hundreds of the best youth climbers in the country.

With rock climbing making its first appearance in the olympics this summer, Erik is excited to see how popular the sport gets in the future.


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