Rising to New Heights: Lawrenceville's Climbing Team

In its third year, the competitive Indoor Rock Climbing team is led by Co-captains Alexander Lau ’19 and Emily Matcham ’20.

In its third year, the competitive Indoor Rock Climbing team is led by Co-captains Alexander Lau ’19 and Emily Matcham ’20. The team of 10 students is coached by Michael Hanewald ’90 P’22.

Throughout the week, the team practices five times a week, three of which involve leaving campus for the Rockville Climbing Center in Hamilton. On days not spent physically climbing, the team goes on a two-mile run and does a workout circuit that Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tony Rienzo and Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Kelly Wise specifically designed for the team. In addition to regular practices, the team also makes weekly visits to the Al Rashid Strength and Conditioning Center for lifts focusing on building stability.

Hanewald was first exposed to the sport and learned rock climbing skills when he was a Rope Course Instructor at Lawrenceville and fell in love with the sport. Hanewald enjoys coaching rock climbing because he “can teach beyond the sport,” instilling in climbers values such as risk-taking and trusting others. He also believes the sport is unique because “size and age don’t determine your success.”

Matcham joined the team during her II Form year when the program first started because she was excited about trying “something new [as] a lot of schools don’t offer [...this] opportunity.” Matcham believes the biggest challenges she encountered when first starting rock climbing were learning “strateg[ies] for climbing, building [upper body strength] and muscles in [...] fingers and joints, and [getting used to] certain techniques that you have to [use to] move around on the wall.”

Leah Antonatos ’20 started rock climbing when she first came to the School last year, as she wanted to participate in a sport that could also be done outdoors. Since joining the team, “[she] takes every opportunity to rock climb because [she] likes to push herself.”

Antonatos elaborated, saying, “[rock climbing is] very strategic [because] you have to know where to put your feet and your hands. It requires a lot of strength and is physically challenging.”

On the team aspect of the sport, Antonatos said, “It’s a very individual sport, but you always have people belaying you on the ground [...] to help you out.”

So far this season, the team has attended one competition at the Rockville Climbing Center. In these competitions, teams don’t necessarily ‘win’ because different teams have different numbers of climbers. However, one of the greatest challenges for the team is finding other teams to compete against.

Commenting on the first half of the season, Matcham said, “Returners were getting back into the swing of things and pushing themselves on getting climbs they have fallen from. For the new climbers, they spent a lot of time learning the new techniques.”

Reflecting on her last year’s experience, Antonatos said, “I did really poorly in the first competition, but by the end, I had placed first […] in the last competition, which was a really proud moment for me because I could see how far [I had] come.”

At competitions, Matcham enjoys being able to watch and observe other climbers. Matcham said, “You can learn a lot from watching people. […] It’s cool to see different strategies and see how other people got past places where you feel.”

With the first half of the season finished, Antonatos is looking forward to the next few competitions, “because there are new climbs that are challenging that you don’t get to see anyone climb before you […] and being able to show what you’ve done so far, improvement-wise.”

Noting the team dynamic, Hanewald said, “everyone trusts [and] encourages everyone.”

With the team’s good start, Matcham is “looking forward to seeing everyone grow”with the second half of the season.

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