Twelve students competed against about 100 students from 20 other schools. UCF took first place with a score of more than three times the second-place finisher, University of Florida.

The competition has two categories — speed and difficulty — split into men’s and women’s divisions.

The speed category consists of two routes on a rock wall where the competitors climb up as fast as they can at the same time and then switch routes. The competitor with the best combined times of both routes is the winner.

In the difficulty category, competitors choose which route they want to climb. The higher the route number, the more difficult it is. Whichever competitor reaches the top of the most difficult route in the fastest time wins.

Three students from UCF placed during the event. Mark Mercer placed first in the men’s difficulty category and second in the men’s speed category. Michelle Schrader finished second in the women’s speed category, and Charles Garcia finished third in the men’s speed category.

“It feels pretty good winning first place the only two years the competition has been held,” Mercer said. “It took being at the rock climbing gym four to five days a week working on a lot of different exercises.”

Mercer has been rock climbing for nine years, which is when he voiced his interest to his parents, who bought him the gear to get started. He has since been competing in several competitions, including three adult national competitions. If Mercer is not climbing, he is working at the Aiguille Rock Climbing Center in Longwood.

“It is pretty exciting to win at nationals. I had never been to a competition like this before,” said Schrader. “I was surprised, but it feels good, and I will try to do even better next time.”

Schrader has been rock climbing since she was 10. When a rock climbing gym opened in her town her family took an interest.

The three years following, she competed in the youth competition. It wasn’t until this past national competition that she started competing again.

“It always is a great feeling to win, especially being able to place from Florida, where you wouldn’t expect strong climbers to come from,” said Mike Roller, the president of the Rock Climbing Club at UCF.

As president, Roller plans all competition trips as well as fun trips at least once a semester to bouldering or rope courses across the country. He also makes sure everyone has transportation to and from events and trips and that all fees are paid.

The team competes in the American Bouldering Series and the USA Climbing, Sport Climbing and Speed Climbing series.

The club was founded in 2001, and it brings students together who enjoy rock climbing and introduces the sport to those who may be interested. The club is open to beginner, intermediate and advanced climbers.

Because Florida is not known for rocky mountains, most of the club’s climbing occurs indoors at the climbing tower at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center or at Aiguille Rock Climbing Center.

For those who really want to experience rock climbing, the club organizes a trip outside of Florida that allows its members to experience nature and become real rock climbers.

UCF students can join the club by going to the monthly meetings or any of the club’s events. Club membership costs $20 for the entire academic year. Benefits include a club T-shirt, new member gift, discounts on equipment and climbing memberships, and the ability to check out equipment, as well as learning climbing techniques and having fun climbing with fellow UCF climbers.

Source: Central Florida Future, UCF team climbs to first place again, by Kaitlyn Teabo, contributing writer.  Published: Sunday, June 13, 2010,  updated: Sunday, June 13, 2010.