Knoxville rock climbing duo set for nationals

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Harper Allen and Yealiya Southern are two of the youngest and toughest rock climbers in the country.

The two girls have soared their way to a spot in the youth national championships July 13-16 in Kinnesaw, Georgia. They both have backgrounds in gymnastics and are the first to reach the national spotlight with Onsight Rock Gym’s team in Knoxville.

At 9-years-old, Yealiya will be the youngest in the competition.

“My mom looked through the national qualifiers and all of them are born in 2006 and I’m the only one who was born in 2008,” said Yealiya.

She’ll be competing against Harper, 11, in sports climbing. However, the two say they’re still a team.

Jonathan Carter, the Onsight Rock Gym youth coach and facilities manager, said he had no idea his team would climb through the competition that fast when he opened the gym in April 2016, but practice made perfect.

“The girls that are going from our team have just been climbing within the last year so they have advanced incredibly,” said Carter. “It typically takes several years for a team to develop to the point that you have kids going to national championships.”

Now Yealiya and Harper have their sights set on a championship.

“Ever since summer started, I’ve been getting to the gym almost every day,” said Yealiya.

Around seven climbers have been with Team Onsight throughout its first year. The gym has youth clubs that start at 3-years-old. teams start at age 7.

“I like that you can be creative and you can do your own thing really. There’s no one up there with you telling you what to do,” Harper added.

Onsite Rock Gym is located at 5335 Western Avenue in Knoxville. They are holding try-outs August 11. For more information, visit their website.

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