Climbing team gets fourth at nationals, Waterhouse wins an event

by Kirby Phares | 5/13/19 2:00am


The Dartmouth climbing team saw a lot of strong individual performances but fell just one point shy of third place.

Source: Courtesy of Sophie Kwon

The Dartmouth climbing team placed fourth in the USA Climbing: Collegiate National Championships held in in Murfreesboro, TN on April 26 and 27, missing the podium by just one point, according to newly-appointed captain Roxy Holden ’21. Claire Apuan TH, Holden, Kayla Lieuw ’19, Marlee Montella ’21, Eric Och ’22, Matt Rube ’19 and Alex Waterhouse ’20 competed in the two-day competition. 

The seven Dartmouth athletes competed in the three events of the championship: bouldering, speed and sport. In the women’s final round of bouldering, Lieuw placed 12th, and Waterhouse and Rube came in third and 15th, respectively, for men. Lieuw, Waterhouse and Rube placed again in the speed finals, coming in eighth, 11th and 18th in their respective events. Dartmouth had two climbers in the final round of sport; adding to his impressive showing in the other two events, Waterhouse snagged first place while Montella tied for 15th among women. 

Montella likens climbing to solving a puzzle. Although nationals is ultimately a competition, she described the event as more of a communal effort in which everyone works together to solve the problem. 

With upwards of 100 teams competing in the championship, the Dartmouth climbing team’s fourth place finish is quite the feat. Dartmouth has traveled to the Collegiate Nationals in previous years and had strong showings against schools with longstanding indoor climbing programs, according to Rube. But unlike many of these other teams, the climbing team is coming up on just its fourth anniversary, having only started in 2015. 

The founding of the Dartmouth climbing team is an example of hard work paying dividends. With determination, passion and a little bit of moxie, Lieuw and Rube co-founded the indoor climbing team during their freshman fall in 2015. The two said they often competed in the same tournaments throughout high school, so when they both decided to come to Dartmouth, they came together to form the team. The sport had been a large part of their lives before Dartmouth, and they saw an opportunity to bring something important to them to campus.

 “We just didn’t see ourselves parting with [climbing],” Lieuw said. “I think for both of us that climbing has given us a lot of things. It’s definitely a tight-knit community. We just wanted to share that with other Dartmouth students.”

But the process of creating what came to be the Dartmouth climbing team was not easy, according to Rube. The idea was initially proposed as a club sport, but for a variety of reasons, they were then directed to talk to the manager of the Jonathan Belden Daniels ’86 Memorial Climbing Gym, the indoor climbing gym on campus. After a long search, they finally found their foothold with the Dartmouth Outing Club. The team became a subsidiary club of the DOC under the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club. The DMC is the outdoor climbing group at Dartmouth, and it provided freshmen Rube and Lieuw with a model for how to run their team and a recruiting opportunity for the budding group. 

The team remained a sub club of the DOC until separating in the fall of 2017. This progression forced Lieuw and Rube to form a more well-rounded organization, according to Rube. That same fall, the Class of 2021 arrived at campus, and the two-year-old team luckily received unprecedented interest. In addition to a short promotional video that appeared on the Dartmouth homepage over the summer of 2017, the team saw its first wave of experienced climbers come to Dartmouth who Lieuw said encouraged their friends to join. 

Even with the general stress of junior year and the new responsibilities that came with the growth of the team, Rube and Lieuw were happy to have the surge of new members. 

“It was definitely overwhelming, but it was a good kind of overwhelming,” Lieuw said. “I think [Rube] and I definitely came in hoping that someday it would turn into this big team … Personally, seeing the ’21s hang outside of practice made me really happy.” 

The expansion of the team continued this year with the addition of the Class of 2022. With many of the newcomers lacking any prior climbing experience, the team leaders were tasked with teaching them how to climb while simultaneously holding effective practices for those with more experience, according to Rube. 

When leading practice, Rube said that he takes a less structured approach. Each member is tasked to figure out their own weaknesses and focus on improving those while in the gym, whether that be gaining strength or working with Rube on the fundamentals. Although the division between experienced and inexperienced climbers makes it hard to accommodate all of them in one practice, Rube said that for someone with less experience, an easier climb will get the same workout as someone on a harder climb such that everyone can benefit from practice. 

Looking toward next year, practice division will be one of the primary focuses for Montella, one of the team’s new captains along with Holden for the 2019-20 season. The two have different climbing backgrounds, according to Lieuw, as Montella came to Dartmouth with prior indoor climbing experience and Holden was first exposed to the sport last year. Both Montella and Holden competed in collegiate nationals this year. 

The transition of leadership from the founders, Lieuw and Rube, to Montella and Holden occurred last Monday, according to Montella. Although they said it was a strange feeling to pass on something that they have worked on throughout their entire time at Dartmouth, both Lieuw and Rube added that they are proud to see that other people care and want to take the team over.

Rube said that it is incredible “to see [the team] where it is today, where I can be absolutely confident that it will continue and become better.”

With new members of the Class of 2023 already expressing their excitement, Rube and Lieuw said they look forward to seeing the direction that Montella and Holden will take the young and growing team.