'Climbing the walls' an Olympic-sized challenge for Kyrene Corridor teen

By Tara Drach

With kids at home for the summer, it seems there’s no shortage of people climbing the walls.

However, for Andrew Sweeney, a junior at Corona del Sol High School, climbing the walls is a sport, not a euphemism for boredom.

Andrew and six other Valley teenagers, called the Wallcrawlers, were among participants in the U.S. Competition Climbing Association’s national “Olympics” July 5-7 in Portland, Ore. The team placed seventh overall.

Andrew placed eighth in the 16-17 year-old boys category, one of the most competitive divisions at the competition.

The members of the Youth Sport Climbing Team, consisting of boys and girls ages eight to 16, climbed to the top in regional competitions in order to compete in the nationals.

Every Wallcrawlers member placed among the top three at the regional competition and secured a place in the nationals, where the best in the country competed for the right to be on the U.S. Youth Climbing Team, which will participate in upcoming world championships.

The team qualified for nationals after earning enough points at the Southwest Regional Bouldering Competition last month.

Their collective points secured a third consecutive regional victory for the Wallcrawlers. As part of the Southwest Region of the USCCA, they have participated in more than eight competitions since April.

The team trains at Climbmax in Tempe, where Coach Mike Covington was optimistic the entire team would continue to do well.

“Every member of the Wallcrawlers has the potential to be in the top 10 of their division,” said Covington.

“The competition in the region was very strong. It raised the bar, and all of our members held their own.”

Andrew, who has been climbing for six years and competing in the USSCA for five years, has won numerous climbing awards.

He began climbing after observing how much his father enjoyed the sport.

The climber is close to his team members.

“I really like the people that I climb with,” said Andrew. “That’s the best part of it for me.”

His favorite climbing areas include Jack’s Canyon in Winslow, Queen Creek Canyon in Superior and a location in Flagstaff, commonly known as “the pit.”

After graduating from Corona del Sol, he plans to attend college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff closer to some of best climbing routes in the state.

Andrew plans to continuing climbing for many years.

“I’ll do it as long as I can. It’s a lot of fun.”

The next challenge for the Wallcrawlers is the Hot House Classic Bouldering Competition which begins Thursday, July 25 at Climbax.