Spotlight: Megan Mascarenas – The LogicianMegan Mascarenas, a top boulderer at 17, calculates every move.
NOVEMBER, 2014: The scene was the Yank-n-Yard, a quirky and fun bouldering comp in Albuquerque with a $1,000 first prize. While Carlo Traversi, Matty Hong, Alex Puccio and other top American boulderers attended, the night’s big moment belonged to a girl who had just turned 17.
When Megan Mascarenas and Alex Puccio, a World Cup winner and longtime leading woman climber, tied in finals, the coursesetters challenged the two to a tiebreaker on one of the men’s problems. While Puccio looked strong—duh—on it, Mascarenas alone finished the problem for the win.
“Megan,” says someone on the Epic TV clip of the event. “There was only one guy to do that.”
Mascarenas looks up, just smiles, perhaps in some surprise, and says nothing. She is wearing a hairband with white rabbit ears.
Megan is a straight-A student at Doherty High School, Colorado Springs, who learned to climb at age 2 or 3 when her mother, Staci Suter, and stepfather, Bill Suter, started going on dates to the gym. Everyone in the family (including her sisters Alexis, 22, and Kristina, 25, and brother, Jesse, 29) climbs—her mother does V6 and Alexis is working a V11. Megan trains with Team ABC in Boulder and Kevin Branford in Colorado Springs.
In a sponsor video, Mascarenas says of her climbing peers, “It’s awesome to see a lot of these other strong athletes going to school and focusing on education.”
In a comp isolation zone she will do a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute (solving sizes up to 7 by 7) to relax. She also likes the Sudoku puzzles on the back page of the newspaper, and intends to become an emergency-room doctor.
Q&A with Megan Mascarenas
Do you know where you’d like to go to college?
I hope UCCS (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs). It’s just down the street from my house.
Would you live at home?
Hopefully. It’s near my gym (Sport Climbing Center), which is good. Both of my sisters went there, so we’re on the same track. They’re about to take their MCATs. My brother is a nurse, my mother is an x-ray technician, and my stepfather is a dentist.
Why emergency medicine?
It’s more exciting and fast- paced than something like family practice.
How much do you climb outdoors?
Not as much as I wish. I go out occasionally with my sister, but it’s not often, especially during comp season. Right now my sister and I both have projects at Ute Pass. We’ll go cheer each other on. Her project is The Crusher [V11]. Mine is Daddy Fat Sacks Direct [V13].
What else do you do?
I spend a lot of time with my dog, Storm. We’ll train her. She can spin around, she can pretend to limp, and she can walk up walls backward into a handstand.
You have a 4.7 GPA in school.
I try to keep the best grades I can.
Ever have a turning point?
Yes! The first few years in school I struggled. My teacher got me motivated. She got me reading and writing. She made me feel that I was responsible for my education. Miss [Kate] Essick. I was 9 or 10.
Do you think of yourself more as a student or a climber?
I would put my academics above my climbing. For now.
How would you describe yourself?
As a quiet person. A problem solver. I like to find solutions to puzzles. I’m probably a little more serious than, like, fun. Climbing is a break from homework and other stresses. It makes me more outgoing and upbeat.
What makes you laugh?
I like puns.
Main strength in climbing?
Reading beta. Whether or not it’s what the routesetters intended, I can pick out a route that’s best for me.
Do your academics and climbing work together?
I think when you read a route, you’re doing math. You’re always looking ahead to where you want to be. It’s a lot of memorization.
So you read from the top down?
I read from the crux down.
4TH PLACE: (placed 2nd in semifinals), Bouldering World Cup, Vail CO, June 2014, at age 16.
1ST: at Yank-n-Yard Adult Pro Open, Albuquerque, NM, November 2014.
3RD, 4TH: American Bouldering Series Nationals (adult), Colorado Springs, CO, and Madison, WI, February 2014 and 2015.
1ST: Youth Bouldering Nationals: 2014 and 2012, Colorado Springs; 2010 in Alexandria, VA; 2009 in Boulder, CO.
1ST: Youth Sport Climbing Series Nationals, Atlanta, GA, 2011.
Show of Hands (V11), Moe’s Valley, UT, at 15.
The Gusher (V11) and DFS Direct (V10), Ute Pass, CO.
Bierstadt (V10), Mount Evans, CO.
The Nickness (V10), Newlin Creek, CO. In April, flashed Anger Management (V11) and sent Temper Tantrum (low start, V12) and Straight Out of the Gate (V11), Elevenmile Canyon, CO.
This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 227 (July 2015).