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USA Lead Climbing National Champions Crowned in Colorado

Two amazing routes lead to nail-biting finishes in this year's USA Lead Climbing National Championships

Thanks to some excellent route setting and wild climbing, both men’s and women’s categories ended in movie-like fashion. In women’s, 15-year-old Annie Sanders won gold, narrowly beating out USA Lead National Team member Quinn Mason. Sanders’ win is extra impressive considering that she also won the Bouldering National Championships last week. In men’s, Sean Bailey took gold after being the only climber to top the men’s route. This was Bailey’s third time winning Lead National Championships, earning gold in both 2016 and 2018.

The 2022 Yeti Climbing National Championships’ lead finals saw the top eight women and top eight men from the semi-finals competing for the title of Lead Climbing National Champion. Women’s and men’s categories each had their own route, approximately 15 m (50 ft) in length. Climbers had up to six minutes to reach the route’s top.

As climbers moved through the route, points were awarded for each key hold they reached. If positive movement toward the next hold was observed, they were awarded with a “+”. For example, a climber that securely grabs the 20th hold and then makes a move for the 21st hold but falls, would be awarded a point of 20+. The women’s route had 45 points to the top, the men’s 33. If competitors were tied in points, their standing in the previous round (i.e. the semi-finals) would be used to break the tie.

The women climbed first. Quinn Mason, current USA Lead National Team member, came in 8th in the semi-finals and thus climbed first in the finals. She put up an impressive score of 38 points, which was not passed by the next six climbers. Last to climb was National Championships rookie standout Annie Sanders. After winning the bouldering National Championships last week and the lead climbing semi-finals the day prior, everyone knew this had the potential to be a very tight race.

Sanders climbed in her typical slow and methodical style, milking rests and perfectly analyzing beta. However, as she neared Mason’s high point, she was running extremely low on time. Viewers of the livestream could hear the commentators urging Sanders to climb faster. With 15 seconds left, Sanders matched Mason’s highpoint of 38 points and then fell. Because Sanders placed higher than Mason in the semi-finals, Sanders was crowned the 2022 Lead Climbing National Champion.

The other USA Lead National Team member competing, Kyra Condie, placed third. The remaining National Team members did not compete (Natalia Grossman, Brooke Raboutou, and Melina Costanza).

Women’s results

  1. Annie Sanders (38)
  2. Quinn Mason (38)
  3. Kyra Condie (36+)
  4. Zoe Yi (36+)
  5. Adriene Akiko (33+)
  6. Kylie Cullen (33+)
  7. Cate Harty (33)
  8. Olivia Ma (33)

In the men’s category, USA Lead National Team members Sean Bailey and Jesse Grupper were the favourites to win. Grupper had already secured a spot on next year’s National Team but decided to compete anyway. The other National Team members were not in the finals. Ross Fulkerson and Nathaniel Coleman were eliminated in earlier rounds and Colin Duffy sat out from the National Championships this year.

The first few competitors all fell around the same section of the route (holds 25 to 27). Young star Dillon “Bob” Countryman who won the bouldering nationals last week unexpectedly popped off at hold 23. Bailey went second-last, climbing near flawlessly to reach the route’s top. To end the night, Grupper set off and slowly and steadily he reached the second last hold of the route. It looked like the championship was his but he started to stuggle with the awkward final position. He fell he as the tried to readjust his feet, leaving Bailey as 2022’s Lead Climbing National Champion.

Men’s results

  1. Sean Bailey (Top)
  2. Jesse Grupper (32)
  3. Hugo Hoyer (27+)
  4. Luke Muehring (27+)
  5. Ellis Ernsberger (26+)
  6. Derek New (26+)
  7. Timothy Kang (25+)
  8. Dillon Countryman (23+)

With the lead finals over, the 2022 Yeti National Championships  have come to a close. To learn more about the competition series, read our previous article describing the comp.

You can also go here to read about and watch the bouldering finals or here for the speed climbing finals.