• Blue Springs girl excelling at climbing the walls

  • Eleven-year-old Tate McCrary found her dream sport by chance.

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  • Eleven-year-old Tate McCrary found her dream sport by chance.
    The Moreland Ridge Middle School student has always been athletic enough – she used to go to swimming and gymnastics lessons about once a week and also gave volleyball and soccer a shot. She enjoyed all of them, but never had a real passion for any of them.
    Then one day last August, McCrary was rock climbing at the Ibex Climbing Gym in Blue Springs. Her parents, Ken and Tina McCrary, had gone climbing for a date night and liked it enough to take Tate and her two sisters, Ryan, 17, and Sage, 14, there.
    Tate wasn’t seeking attention, but she got it anyway. She caught the eye of Ibex owner and rock-climbing coach Kat Whistance, who immediately recognized the youngster was something special. Whistance offered Tate a spot on the Ibex climbing team, which thrilled Tate.
    “I loved it,” Tate said. “My sisters never really loved it as much as I did, though. ... The owner watched me climb and said I was a natural and asked me to be on the team.
    “I was super excited and all I could think about for the next couple weeks was rock climbing.”
    Once she joined the squad, it didn’t take her career long to take off. At her very first competition, on Halloween, she came in fourth and started realizing her potential. She recently took first place at the Midwest Regional Championships and qualified for the divisional championships. Last weekend, she placed second in the female youth C sport-climbing tournament and third in the speed-climbing event, qualifying for the national competition over the July Fourth weekend in Atlanta.
    “She’s very, very graceful,” said Carl Brockhoff, one of Tate’s coaches. “She seems to have an incredible sense of how her balance adjusted itself on the wall and she was able to interpret movement on the wall very easily and naturally from the time she started. That’s really what struck us from the start and she’s also just very naturally strong for her size.”
    The USA Climbing season is broken into two parts. The American Bouldering Series runs in the fall and winter and involves shorter, high-intensity climbs. The Sport Climbing Series goes through the spring and summer and involves longer routs between 25 and 45 feet tall.
    Although a harness is attached to the climbers for the Sport Climbing Series, Tate said getting past an initial fear of heights was one of her biggest challenges.
    “I was very scared to fall,” she said, “but everybody falls. I just got over it after a while. It’s still scary to fall, but I watched this video of some famous climbers doing it and they fall like 50 feet and weren’t even scared at all.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Tate says she hopes to become a professional climber some day. Of course, her mother cautions, that’s a long way off for an 11-year-old. For now, her parents are still taking this all in.
    “We’re kind of floored with the progress she’s made,” Tina McCrary said. “It’s kind of like the stars are aligned. We accidentally found the perfect sport for this kid. ... The minute we had a harness on and stuck her on a wall, she was a different kid.”
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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