The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Pony Pulldown contest attracts climbers from across the nation

Climbers strapped on their harnesses and flew through the air Saturday as SMU hosted the Fourth Annual Pony Pulldown Competition.

More than 83 climbers faced the 40-foot rock wall at the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports’ Climbing Center. The competition attracted not only students from Texas universities, but climbers from all over the nation as well.

Competitors faced off in a variety of skills including the rope climbing portion in which they followed a specific route on the wall marked by a certain color that corresponded to their skill level. In this portion of the competition, if they made it to the top with no mistakes, they received a perfect score. Their top five scores were added together and the competitor with the highest score won. This year, climber Aaron Bentler took the gold for the men’s beginner competition and Maia Holmes placed first for the girls with SMU’s Jen Ringer scoring a close second.

The competition sped things up when competitors were timed as they raced to the top of the wall. With a time of 15.78 seconds, Jason Paul secured the first place sport for the men’s division and Texas A&M climber Stephanie Reece won the women’s speed division with a time of 32.41 seconds.

In addition to the climbing wall, competitors all flocked to the concave bouldering wall. Bouldering consists of climbing a wall with no ropes. David Chambers, associate director of SMU’s Outdoor Adventure program, said that bouldering is a very “powerful style of climbing” that requires great physical strength.

The climbers and viewers surrounded the bouldering wall to get a glimpse at one of the most unique and challenging aspects of the competition. The dyno competition includes quick reaction times and agile movements. Participants are given specific holes to position themselves in at the beginning and have to fly through the air in one swift movement to jump to the next specified holes. The climbers have two attempts to try, and if they do not successfully complete the jump, they are eliminated. Simon McNeny led the men’s division while Alicia Wongipanich took first in the women’s competition with SMU climber Garlyn Schwarzlose close behind in third.

To prepare for this event, SMU Outdoor Adventure climbing staff reconfigured the handholds of the climbing wall and bouldering wall to create a variety of different routes for the different abilities of the competitors. The staff also went through rigorous training to be able to serve as belays and judges for the competition.

At the end of the day, climbers raved about the event and exclaimed how excited they were to have participated in the competition.

Erin Baab, 32, flew in from Chicago just for the competition. This was her first competition, and she said that even though she has only been climbing for a year, she was still very pleased with her performance for the day and really enjoyed being a part of the series.

“Climbing is really spiritual for me,” Baab said. “There’s just something about overcoming really difficult things, like the rock wall.”

James Kancewick, a 20-year-old climber from Texas A&M, also competed in his first competition on Saturday. Kancewick placed second in the men’s speed climbing competition.

“I love the challenge that climbing offers,” Kancewick said. “I look at it like a puzzle, a puzzle I can solve.”

The Pony Pulldown Competition began four years ago as part of a climbing pilot series in Texas. The competition is part of the Collegiate Climbing Series. The CCS, created and directed by John Myrick, is designed to create a nationwide college climbing series that has regional competitions.

“It has always been a dream of mine to see climbing become a college sport,” Myrick said. “It is really exciting to be a part of making that happen.”

Myrick hopes that if climbing really catches on at college campuses worldwide, one day it will become an Olympic sport.

Chambers is also an avid supporter of the growing enthusiasm of the climbing community today. He said that he loves watching the progress of the sport and seeing that every year the Pulldown Competition participants are growing in number.

He also feels that there is no sport community out there as unique at the climbers.

“We’re all just climbers,” Chambers said. “When we get together, it is just a time to sit down, talk, and have fun with each other. There are no rivalries like in most other traditional sports.”

Chambers hopes that all climbers will have this attitude about the fast-growing sport.

“As long as people are having fun, that’s all that matters,” Chambers said. “If people aren’t smiling and laughing when they leave, then that means we need to do something different.”

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