Keith Warrick, of the West Mansfield area, displays his National championship medal for competitive rock climbing.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
You can call Keith Warrick a “walking, talking miracle.”
You can also call him a national champion.
Warrick, 25, of the West Mansfield area, recently won a national championship in competitive rock climbing.
The event was held earlier in the summer at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, Mass., which is a suburb of Boston.
It consisted of an indoor climb of 50 feet and competitors were challenged with various overhangs and different holds.
“It was very challenging,” said Warrick, who competed in the neuro-physical division. “Some of the holds were very slippery and I didn’t like that.”
The most challenging, he said, were the underhang holds.
Warrick placed second to a competitor from India, who still resides in his native country.
“Keith was the top climber in his division from this country,” said his mom, Ina. “Technically, they considered him a national champion.”
Climbers are awarded points for the levels they achieve during their climbs. Warrick earned 14,100 points during the national competition.
There are a number of safety precautions that come into play during a rock climbing competition.
Climbers wear harnesses and there are spotters who help hold ropes during a climb.
“Some of the climbers also wear helmets,” said Mrs. Warrick. “There are also very thick mats on the floor, so there were a lot of safety measures at the National meet.”
Warrick, who climbs the 45-to-50 feet during competitions in an average of two minutes, competed in a couple of regional meets before the Nationals. He placed second in one of those meets.
The recent National meet was his first competition on that level during his two-year competitive climbing career.
Warrick began climbing for fun at the age of eight at Recreation Unlimited near Ashley. He then continued it during his stint in the Boy Scouts. He is an Eagle Scout, having earned the honor through Troop 355 in Marysville.
He achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at the age of 16 when his project included renovations and a food drive for the West Mansfield Food Pantry.
Warrick now climbs at Vertical Adventures in Columbus, under the guidance of coach Jordan Kessler.
“Keith is truly an exceptional dude who lights up the gym every time he enters,” said Kessler.
“Keith has been climbing in our adaptive program at Vertical Adventures for around two years,” he said. “He originally stepped foot in the gym during one of our free Adaptive Ascents events where we hold free climbing to anyone with a disability and their families.
“He was unstoppable from day one and got our volunteer ‘belayers’ (rope holders) to work doing one climb after another until the event ended. Since then, he has been training in our Adaptive Climbing Club for adults. He continues to push the limits of his climbing while excelling in areas of leg strength and footwork, which were once areas that were thought of as weaknesses.
“He competed as the only climber with a disability in a few competitions here at Vertical Adventures and even took third place in one of them last fall.”
Kessler said the Warrick family jumped at the opportunity for him to compete in the Nationals.
“We focused on Keith’s technical climbing while improving his overall strength in the gym while he worked on additional strength training at home,” said Kessler. “With the hard work of Coach Christine, Coach Jeremy and Coach Andy, Keith made great strides and we went into Nationals feeling good.
“The day of the competition, Keith didn’t disappoint,” said Kessler. “Coach Christine and I assembled a great plan of climbs to try and he put on a great performance. He struggled with having unfamiliar faces belaying for him but he pushed through.
“He flashed (climbed from bottom to top on his first try) his first three routes and looked strong,” said the coach. “On his fourth climb, we attempted one of the 10 hardest climbs of the day, which he once again flashed. We continued working through routes to accumulate additional points and cheer on fellow competitors from all over the world.
“He had me on the verge of tears of pride throughout the whole day. He worked so hard up to this day and it really paid off.
“We knew he performed well but we didn’t realize how well,” said Kessler. “He took second, only to a international competitor, at Nationals making him the top male Neuro-physical climber in the United States. We celebrated the next day by climbing outside of Boston, which was his first time on real rock.
“Keith continues to pursue the next level of his abilities and doesn’t let anything stand in his way,” said the coach. “He’s a great example of a climber by any standards who is constantly pushing his limits and having a great time doing so.
“The Warrick’s are a wonderful part of our climbing community and we look forward to Nationals and hopefully competing at Worlds next year,” Kessler said. “Climbing is for everyone and Keith is a perfect reflection of this every time he steps through the door.”
Warrick has an impressive “resume” as he is also a seasonal worker for Mad River Mountain, volunteers at his church and with Vertical Adventures, the West Mansfield Conservation Club and the Benjamin Logan Athletic Boosters.
He also is a manager/ coach for the Raiders football squad.
“Keith is really the team’s ‘encourager,’” said his mother. “He’s been doing it for three years.”
“I help the team with their running,” he said with a smile.
The fact that Warrick has been able to accomplish so much is a miracle in itself, considering all of the physical and developmental issues he has had to combat since his birth.
He underwent open-heart surgery shortly after his birth and still contends with several pulmonary issues. Included in that is pulmonary fibrosis with restrictive lung disease and a couple of issues with his brain.
Warrick is one who doesn’t let his difficulties prevent him from doing the things he enjoys.
He’s already training for next year’s Nationals, which reportedly will be held at the same venue.
If he scores high enough at that meet, he will qualify for the World meet, which will be held September of 2018 in Austria.
There may also be a chance to see him on the Olympic stage some day.
“Competitive climbing is supposedly going to be included for the first time in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games,” said Mrs. Warrick. “We’re starting to research that.”
Throughout Warrick’s numerous health issues, he and his family have never lost their faith.
“A lot of people have prayed for Keith,” said his mother. “One of his surgeons is a Christian and right before they operated, he and all of the nurses prayed for Keith in the operating room.”
With the health and developmental issues, has the family ever worried about Warrick’s climbing adventures?
Mrs. Warrick admitted to a some nerves early on, but added that they took the advice of one of his doctors.
“The doctor said to let Keith go and do this,” she said.
Mrs. Warrick said they take one day at a time and let Warrick do various activities.
“I think it’s Devine intervention that Keith is still here and is able to do what he enjoys,” she said.
“We’re very blessed.”
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