JIBS. Junior Indoor Bouldering Series. This competition will always hold a special place in my heart. There's just something about woody walls, old greasy holds, incredible setting, and the whole community vibe that the Philadelphia Rock Gym creates every year. If I couldn't climb at Prime Climb anymore, this would undoubtedly be my gym of choice. I almost didn't make it this year, mainly due to the fact that I'm in Colorado Springs and Philadelphia is about 1,671.2 miles away. Yet somehow all the cards aligned, and on February 7th, I found myself on a plane headed to La Guardia in New York, racing to beat Nemo, the due-to-be snowstorm of the century. Fortunately, I was able to book an earlier flight, which conveniently gave me more time to study for my Russian final. And we spent two nights at our New Jersey family’s house (at least the closest we have to family here in the States). Qualifiers were smooth sailing, as usual. I ended up finding a bunch of crimpy 700s and 800s to fill up my scorecard, all of which I either flashed or sent second go. The problems were super tight, even though there wasn’t anything flashy or particularly out-of-the-box, especially compared to some of the more recent comps I’ve done (Dark Horse much?). Just solid climbing, which has definitely been missing from my life these past few months. The main thing that struck me from Qualifiers was the atmosphere. Kids who I had met once or twice before, and stayed in touch with only through occasional Facebook likes, would cheer me on on almost every problem, and offer their congrats after each send. It’s those little things that bring a comp from good to exceptional. If only I had more time. This was, regrettably, going to be my last JIBS before I aged out. After deciding that I definitely qualified, my mom and I headed out to do some shopping, eating, and more shopping (not like there’s much else to do in the six hours between Qualis and Finals). Being away in Colorado had definitely taken its toll on my shopping stamina, and I lasted only about 2 hours between TJ Maxx and Ross, where two plus-sized women in jeans and Nikes got into a full-out fight, forcing security to break them up. And I thought high school days were a thing of the past. At least the dosa (crepe on steroids) we split at a fast food Indian joint (which, by the way, is much better than it sounds) lived up to all expectations. As it turned out, I had qualified first. No pressure or anything. The only person I was really worried about was my friend Zoe, who’d be climbing right before me (reverse running order). Like I said, no pressure. To make matters worse, she ended up flashing every finals climb, which put me in an extremely unpleasant situation every time I climbed. Final #1 was fucking awkward. Horribly awkward. Yes, this could (and probably should) be attributed to the fact that I didn’t really use my feet at all, as my mom pointed out afterwards, but I’ll just stick to the awkward story. It was on my least favorite wall, the five-foot wonder with a very low-angle top-out. I slipped a tad before the top-out, almost blowing it right then and there. But held on, because there was no way I was going out on the first climb. Awkward but sent. Final #2 was definitely an upgrade from Final #1. Shitey slopers for the beginning leading into a series of slopey pinches (my favorite!) It was uncannily easy however, especially for a finals problem; definitely no harder than V6. I also flashed this climb, right after Zoe. Final #3 was a train wreck and a half. In my determination to flash everything, I completely missed half of the holds on one of the volumes near the top. Actually, I saw the holds, but didn't realize they were fair game until after the comp was over. This was definitely one of the dumber things I have done in my competition career. That being said, the problem was probably meant to be around V6, but taking away those key handholds bumped it up to a solid V7. A V7 I flashed (phew), despite spending a good three minutes on the wall. I also tweaked my shoulder on a foot cut that was the direct consequence of skipping holds. Just where I wanted to be going into the last final. Goddammit. Final #4 was the only problem that, in my opinion, was more or less creative. Unfortunately “creative” is often accompanied by “long” and “endurancy”, which, clearly, is not my niche. I also screwed up the beta on a powerful lock-off move by using a toe on a hold around the corner instead of a heel. As a result, I ended up having to attempt the move twice in one go (staying true to the no-falling philosophy). But, if somewhat miraculously, I managed to fight through the burn all the way until the last move. The fucking last move, one fucking hold that separated me from Zoe, second from first. The most heartbreaking part was that I knew I didn’t have the energy to grab the last hold, as much as I wanted it. No excuses, it just wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough. I had it and I blew it. All there is to it. The second I fell I knew it was over. There was no point in trying the problem again because it wouldn't change anything. I had never wanted to cry as much as I did in that moment. It wasn't about the prizes or the money. It was about blowing the last chance I had to take the title, to show Moon they hadn't wasted their money, to prove to myself that I was good enough. It was about having climbed better than anyone in my category during Qualifiers, then blowing it in Finals. Through all the disappointments I have faced in comps, this was by far the hardest to accept. In retrospect, maybe the setting wasn't as inspired this year. Maybe the finals problems were too easy. Or maybe I’m the one who has changed. Notwithstanding, I wouldn't trade the opportunity to participate in this one last JIBS for the world. I guess there’s just something about woody walls and crusher kids that gets a climber psyched. Psyched to climb, psyched to train, psyched for next year, regardless of what it may bring. Thank you so much to Philadelphia Rock Gyms for the climbs, the friendships, and the memories. JIBS is definitely one of its kind.