RIT rock climbers aiming for the top in national competition

RIT team finished first overall in northeast regional competition

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RIT Rock Climbing Team members headed to the national championships in San Diego are: (left to right) Lisa Chiffolo, Jasmin Barthel, Lourdes Wong, Teija Mortvedt, Keegan Parrotte, Andy Lipnicky, Andrew Wetjen and Dan Lynch.

Eight Rochester Institute of Technology students from the RIT Rock Climbing Team will compete in national competition Friday and Saturday at the Collegiate Climbing Series in San Diego, Calif.

Nearly 400 athletes from approximately 40 colleges will participate in various competitions, including speed, bouldering and sport climbing.

“Everyone is looking to improve their scores from previous competitions and at the same time, it’s friendly competition,” said Andrew Wetjen, a fourth-year applied arts and sciences major from Harleysville, Pa., and current team captain. “We work with our fellow team members and members from other schools as well.”

A friend took Wetjen to RIT’s Red Barn to climb for the first time as a freshman. “I enjoyed it and decided it would be my thing,” he said. “It’s challenging mentally as well as physically and you have to figure problems out like a puzzle. It’s not the same every time.”

The team is coming off of a first-place overall victory in northeast regional competition earlier this month in Albany, against teams from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“We beat West Point military academy,” Wetjen said. “That’s something we can talk about.”

The other RIT students competing in the nationals are:

  • Jasmin Barthel, a third-year physician assistant major from Westminster, Colo.
  • Lisa Chiffolo, a fifth-year chemical engineering major from Bethany Beach, Del.
  • Andy Lipnicky, a Ph.D. student in astrophysical sciences and technology from Basom, N.Y.
  • Dan Lynch, a third-year mechanical engineering major from Miller Place, N.Y.
  • Teija Mortvedt, a Ph.D. student in sustainability from Bremerton, Wash.
  • Keegan Parrotte, a fifth-year software engineering major from Peru, N.Y.
  • Lourdes Wong, a fourth-year political science major from Greece, N.Y.

Members of the team going to California placed first in the men’s or women’s competitions earlier this season, said Barthel. “We won every single local competition as a team.”
RIT climbers have attended the nationals before, but extra fundraising helped to get eight team members to California this year, she said.

“I went last year, and it was one of the best times I had since I was at college,” Barthel said.

She said she and her teammates have been “climbing all the time” to get ready for the competition.

“We’re working through different problems on the wall and giving each other suggestions and encouragement,” she said. “It’s very fun, and a good way to exercise without feeling like you’re exercising. You use every part of your body.”

Lynch started climbing at RIT’s Red Barn when he first came to RIT. He was voted next year’s team captain.

“I definitely enjoy it,” said Lynch, who has lost 50 pounds since he began climbing. “I enjoy the problem solving involved, but it’s a lot harder than it seems. I try to compete to better what I previously did.”

The climbers wear a harness and don’t worry about falling—which happens frequently, they say.

“If you’re not falling, you’re not pushing yourself all the way,” Lynch said.