The first time Alex Puccio tried to join her climbing team, she didn't get far. Alex, now 17, from McKinney, Texas, had just started climbing at the Exposure gym.
"My sister was four years younger, but she was better." The coach came and asked her, 'Do you want to be on my team?' She said, I don't know.' I said, Are you kidding? I want to be on the team!
As she remembers it, the coach, Kyle Clinkscales, said, I don't know if I want you to be.' I was a little older, about 13, and he didn't know if he could mold me, and he thought I was too big a flirt.
Puccio set out to prove her mettle, training hard and climbing with the team members. The coach paid attention: He sat me down and told me, You'd have to be very disciplined about it, and not goof off, and be serious,' and I agreed. Dedication now defines her.
Last summer Alex, a passionate boulderer (she also does roped climbs), at 16 won among women at the Teva Mountain Games, in Vail, Colorado. In spring, at an adult National Championship, in Boulder, this then unknown climber made the finals in ninth place. Then she won.
I don't think anyone expected that of me, except the people I knew, because they knew how hard I trained, four days a week. Two days my coach trained me and two days I trained myself, all weekend, because I wanted to win.
She and her friends on Team Texas earned number one among teams at the Junior Nationals for three years running.
Alex climbs outdoors as much as possible, and her ticks include eight V8s, a V8/9, and five V9s: Dragonfly Low, Frogger, Beer Can Traverse, Dope Fiend Low and A Date With Beth (sit start), all at Hueco Tanks.
Next year, she hopes to attend the University of Colorado, in Boulder, studying for a business degree.
I want to start climbing outside a lot more and achieve harder climbs. To me what's fun is always sending a little harder.