At 16 years old, Jake Plasco has bigger aspirations than just finishing school. This rising senior from Arlington High is setting his eyes set on the world’s stage at the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.

A Lifestyle of Dedication

Not a newcomer to the sport, Jake started climbing at age 10, when his family lived near Whitewater Center in North Carolina. “I saw people out there, and I wanted to try it,” he explains. 

Jake pushed his training even harder when he moved to Memphis in 2018. He trains at High Point Climbing and Fitness and is a member of its competitive team. They meet three times a week with their coach Adam Janicki, but you’ll find him there even more often—about 30 hours a week.

“I wake up, go to school, relax for a little bit, and then go to the gym for five or six hours,” he says. Fortunately, learning comes easily to him so balancing homework hasn’t been too challenging. “I go there to train, but it’s also where I go to hang out with my friends. The community is so important to me. Everyone is so encouraging that it keeps me motivated to train.” 

Climb On

As a well-rounded climber, Jake trains in both bouldering and lead climbing. He’s following in the footsteps of one of his idols, professional Czech climber Adam Ondra, who will be in the Olympics this summer.

Bouldering takes place on shorter walls with routes less than 20 feet high. The climbers complete a specific route (without a harness or ropes) and use a crash pad to land. In competition, they have unlimited attempts to complete the route but must do it in four to five minutes.

Lead climbing uses an established route with permanent anchors that harnessed climbers clip into as they ascend. They only have one chance to complete the route and must do it as fast as they can. “When I’m on the wall, all I am thinking is just keep going,” he says.

Most of Jake’s training happens indoors at High Point, but he also enjoys taking it outside. Some of his favorite climbs are Horse Pens 40 in Alabama and Jackson Falls in Illinois. This month, he’s traveling with his team to Reno to compete in the Youth National Championship. It’s his second time, and he says: “I feel really good about this year. I am placed better in this year’s competition and think I can make it to finals.”

Mental & Physical Preparation

Leading up to the Youth National Championship, Jake is increasing the intensity of his training until a week before the competition to taper down. “At that point, I will have to trust that I trained my best and focus on keeping a positive mindset,” he says.

Jake continues, “Climbing is as much a mental sport as it is a physical sport. You have one chance to show what you are capable of so you have to keep your cool.”

Beyond this summer, Jake will be wrapping up his last year of high school. Climbing at the collegiate level is no question, but a spot on the US Olympic Sport Climbing Team? We’ll just have to wait and see.

By Morgan Stritzinger

Photo by Tindall Stephens