by: Rita A. Leonard Lia Messinger, 12, practices rock climbing at her Brooklyn home. She recently won eighth place at a national “bouldering” competition in Colorado.

At the age of 12, Lia Messinger is already an experienced rock climber. 'Rock climbers use ropes during their ascent,' she explains. 'When you climb without ropes, it's called 'bouldering'.'

The Brooklyn teen was recently awarded 8th place nationally, in her category, in the American Bouldering Competition held in Boulder, Colorado.

'She was introduced to the sport during a birthday party held at The Circuit Gym, an indoor 'bouldering' gym, when she was 8 years old,' reveals her mother, Diane. 'One of the coaches there saw her climb, and suggested that she'd be good for the team.

'It's a sport that requires upper body and core strength, as well as focusing skills in choosing the best route for ascent. It's good to see a sport where girls can do as well as boys. She practices regularly two or three times a week after school, and loves it. '

Lia has been a member of the Circuit Bouldering Team for three years now. 'It's an individual sport, but we all root for each other when our team members win. Getting together to make friends is more important than competing, though,' she smiles. 'It was really exciting to meet the other competitors in my age group from across the country.'

During meets, bouldering competitors are rated on the four to five minutes it takes to complete their climb. Since they don't get to see their route until seconds before they start the climb, they must quickly evaluate the best way up, using different formations and holds.

'It can be very graceful,' comments Diane. 'Last year, Lia tried out in the regionals. The top four winners there are invited to the nationals.'

Lia enjoys bouldering, biking, swimming, and hanging out with team friends. One of the two Circuit Bouldering Gyms where she practices - on N.E. 18th at Sandy Boulevard - is the biggest in the United States. 'Sometimes in the spring we go to outdoor sites in natural areas around the state,' she says. 'We have about five trips planned already.

'During competition, we start with warm-ups and yoga. Besides arm and core strength, we also depend a lot on our feet. The hardest part is the mental preparation, though; sometimes you have to really push yourself for tricky maneuvers. I've got some artificial climbing features fastened to the walls around a doorway at home. I can practice there whenever I want.'

During the past three years, Lia has won five awards; but her best showing was in the three-day February competition sponsored by the USA Climbing Company and others. She hopes to continue learning more difficult techniques at new sites in world competition.

'Thailand is supposed to be a really cool place to climb,' she grins. 'We always have a lot of padding if we fall during practice, but in Thailand you get to fall into the water.'

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