A new season for youth climbing in Summit County is bringing a variety of changes. The team, Team Summit Climbing has a new coach, 22-year-old competitive climber Audrey Gawrych. It's moving the practice facility from Chizzled Fitness & Climbing Club to the Breckenridge Recreation Center. Organizers are implementing the elite level of competition, which allows Summit's young rock warriors to compete at the level afforded to kids in climbing meccas like Boulder. To shed some light on it all - including recreational climbing for youth - Breckenridge Recreation Center is hosting a youth climbing night on Tuesday. At 6 p.m. in the multipurpose room, youths and their families are invited to learn the ins and outs of climbing, with the help of pizza and drinks, before allowing youngsters the chance to scale the wall and see what it's like. The event is primarily about simply exposing Summit's youth to the world of rock climbing, Breckenridge outdoor recreation coordinator Matt Parker said, but information about climbing competitively will also be available. There's even money out there to get a kid going in the sport. John Bedker will speak about the Bentley Bedker Climbing Scholarship, which honors his son who died unexpectedly at an early age in 2009. Bentley traveled locally, nationally and internationally to climb, so his parents decided there was no better way to leave a legacy for him than to create a climbing fund to help young people in Summit County learn to climb, compete and get equipment. According to Paker, there is more than $4,000 in the fund, which can go a long way in basic, indoor climbing equipment. "Some people may have a passion for climbing, but maybe not the resources," John Bedker said. "We provide the resources." In so doing, the family is doing something bigger. Climbing teaches discipline, perseverence and in big wall climbing, teamwork. "It really truly is about the life skill," John Bedker said. "You have to be an effective communicator to climb well. You have to be able to have judgment and decision making. These are critical life skills that will hold you well if you're climbing, or working a desk. ... And for us, it's about trust. When you're on the rope, you trust in someone else with the hope that they also trust in you." For those interested in taking climbing to the next level, Gawrych also plans to explain what it means to compete on the rock wall. "She's only 22 and she's already been around the world and coached teams," Parker said of Gawrych. "There are some really strong, athletic kids in this community who need a place to climb. We finally have a coach that can take the elite kids and continue to push them toward that elite level." Aside from hiring a coach, the town of Breckenridge is also supporting the team by providing transportation to competitions in places like Boulder, Fort Collins, Vail and more as well as providing access to the climbing facility for training. Gawrych, a climber of more than 16 years, was on the U.S. team for 12 years and competed in the World Cups in all disciplines (sport climbing, bouldering and speed climbing). She has more than eight years of coaching experience, including Team Texas and Team ABC, "two of the best climbing teams in the nation," the coach said. "I moved to Breckenridge because I am so incredibly in love with the mountains and people here. I think it's an awesome community that's extremely supportive of getting outside and being active," said Gawrych, who used to live in Boulder and attended the University of Colorado, studying architecture.She'll head up the training of the 15 kids currently on the team as well as growing it. The program caters to all levels of climber, from the preparatory team (teaches the basics of climbing in a fun environment, practices once weekly), the advanced team (build skills for those who know the basics, encouraging technique, power, endurance and mental ability, practices twice weekly), and the elite team (intense training including travel to state and national competitions, requires a try-out and practices three times weekly). The elite team will be competing in the regional competition for the first time ever this year. After a handful of competitions, the climbers have placed well in local events. Gawrych sees it as a unique opportunity for Summit County kids to be part of an aspirational climbing program. "The team has endless potential. The kids we have are extremely hard workers who have such a passion for the sport," Gawrych said. "We have kids of all ages and abilities whom push each other to strive for greatness. We just started out as a team, but I can already tell we're going to be a great big family. It's a pleasure to be able to work with them and I feel honored to be the head coach."
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