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Q&A: Jesse Grupper, 2015 SCS National Championship Runner-Up

Jesse Grupper, 18, unexpectedly brought the house down last Saturday in Watertown, MA with a silver second at the 2015 Open SCS Nationals. In this Rock and Ice exclusive interview, Grupper talks about training, expectations and his future goals.

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Jesse Grupper pulling his way into second place. Photo by Loriella. Jesse Grupper unexpectedly brought the house down last Saturday in Watertown, MA with a silver second at the 2015 Open SCS Nationals. Runner-up to Kai Lightner, this gangly 18-year-old is about to leave Montclair High School in New Jersey for Tufts University of Boston and wasn’t expecting such a big win.


TH: Jesse, did you expect to place second in the Open SCS Nationals in a field full of veteran competitors?

JG: My goal at the beginning of the competition was to make it to Semi-Finals. I far surpassed my expectations.

TH: What did your training include the month leading up to the competition?

JG: My home gym in New Jersey is relatively small compared to competition walls. The only way I can successfully train for routes is to make long problems. My usual workout is to run about ten laps with breaks in between on these thirty-or-so move problems. I train with Randi Goldberg and Dave Rowland from the Philadelphia Rock Gym. They push me, but make sure I don’t get too injured.

TH: So do you consider Randi and Dave a large part of your success? Or are there other major factors you include in your training, like nutrition or specific strength training exercises?

JG: Randi and Dave are definitely a key to my success. I really think that the most important part of my training and probably any other athlete’s regimen is having tenacity and discipline. My coaches are half my success, the other half is the doing part. I have specific exercises that I do six nights a week. Generally it’s about thirty minutes of cross-training. I do mainly leg and back strengthening with a kettle bell, and core strengthening with an exercise ball (lots of fun!!).

TH: What is your secret for the week leading up to a competition; do you have a specific regimen for that as well?

JG: My coaches have always said that you can’t get stronger about two weeks before a competition, but you can get injured. That is, as long as you don’t sit on the couch for two weeks, and stop climbing. I agree with this. Before a competition I don’t suddenly go into over-training mode, I just keep doing what I’m doing (or climbing what I’m climbing). I generally try to eat less dessert. Not because I think it has a physical effect, but it helps me remember a competition is coming up and keeps me psyched.

TH: From your quick responses, it seems like you’ve thought a lot about life and training. What are your thoughts on the near future? Will you balance college and climbing, or choose to focus on one?

JG: I enjoy climbing and school—they both are important pieces to my life. I think they also are good at building off of each other. When I’m doing well in one, it motivates me in the other. I think it would be difficult to ever only do one. Climbing can teach you lessons as important as school as long as you pay attention. Life is climbing.

TH: What climbing goals have you set for yourself, and are they affected by the SCS Nationals placing?

JG: Yes, I think my goals definitely have been affected by SCS Nationals. Before, I wouldn’t have thought about going to an Open World Cup, but now I think it’s within reach. I’m also an avid outdoor climber, and would be very excited to keep exploring new areas for sport climbing as well as bouldering. On my tick list, Bishop and Red Rocks are just a couple. I hope to keep pushing myself with difficult climbs, and keep finding fun climbs along the way. In addition, I’ve been learning how to trad climb and would like to push myself in that respect as well. Near the college I’m about to attend, there are several areas like Cathedral Ledge or Cannon that have difficult and fun looking trad climbs that I would like to get on while I’m there. Lastly, I want to continue doing the youth circuit for as long as possible, and hopefully go to another Youth World Championship. Whatever it is, I just want to continue having fun with climbing.

TH: Thanks for the time, Jesse! Good luck in Youth Nationals and Dominion Riverrock this year!