Golden Eagles reach new heights

First-year Mountain Vista climbing team state-bound

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Mountain Vista may be one of many high schools in the Douglas County district with an adventure program, but as of now the Golden Eagles have the only competitive climbing team.

The fledgling program just finished breezing through its first year of competition and will be sending eight varsity boys, 13 junior varsity boys and three junior varsity girls to the state tournament Feb. 22-23 at City Rock in Colorado Springs.

“I don’t envision us blowing people out of the competition at state, varsity-wise, but I think on JV we have enough skill and strength we might be able to take first,” said head coach and adventure teach Jennifer Vidal, who touted the fact her young team only has two seniors.  

The varsity squad is coming off a second-place finish at its seven-team regional competition Feb. 9 in Parker, but managed to secure eight of the 16 available state qualifying places at the tourney on an individual level. First-place Cherry Creek had seven and Legend’s Ryan Ham also qualified despite his school not having a team.

For some of the members of Mountain Vista’s newest team it’s about fun, hanging out with friends and learning how to climb. For others, such as senior Andrew Pavone, it’s a chance to learn a skill set that could someday lead to a job.

“I want to take it to the professional level, not sport climbing per se, but more like technical rescue, stage rigging, personal rescue,” said Pavone, who started climbing four years ago and is also involved with South Metro Fire’s Explorers Post.  

Sophomore Sean Harris, meanwhile, has been climbing indoors and outdoors around Colorado since he was 4. He routinely places at varsity meets and plans to continue climbing in competitions after high school.

“It’s awesome,” he said of the team. “It’s the one sport I’m good at.”

Whether they’ve been involved for one year or their whole life, Vidal has noticed a constant between the kids — they’ve found a niche on the team and she’s found hers coaching them as well.

“These are quirky, non-jocky kids,” said Vidal, who also coaches softball and girls tennis at the school. “They are not big tough guys, they are lean and tall and this sport is perfect for them. … It’s turned many of them around. They come see me during the day, come hang out in the gym. I’ve seen a lot of them just thrive since we started.”

While a team, many of them only come together in Vidal’s adventure class or in the competitions to climb, as most of them practice on their own at the climbing walls at Eastridge Recreation Center or the LifeTime Fitness in Centennial or Parker. 

Competing on varsity for the Golden Eagles at state will be Harris, Dillon Ackerly, Nick Arnott, Darren Hauk, Anthony Marinelli, Charles Peisert, Ryan Schroeder and Cole Simonet. The kids will compete in rope comps as well as bouldering.