By Ina Warrick
Our adventure into competitive competition climbing began on June 22, 2017 Keith Warrick stepped up to his first National Adaptive Climbing competition route. He had never competed in an adaptive climbing competition, never competed nationally and that was just the beginning of his journey into climbing as a competitor with goals set on a world championship. He had been training for months (well he says it really isn’t training, more like hanging out with friends, friends who will cheer you on and friends who won’t hesitate to tell you are doing it wrong.
So, back track to Keith and his beginning. Keith was born with a serious heart condition which required heart surgery before he was even 24 hours old. Keith has overcome life threatening medical issues from day 1. As he got older we were informed that he had Klippel-feil syndrome and Lobar Holoprosencephaly. And while he has had many issues that have kept him from living out part of his dreams he has found even greater ones. He has faced those obstacles with God on his side and a passion for life. A life that has had its shares of ups and downs medically. As his parents we were told that there would be things Keith would struggle with. He would struggle to walk without an awkward gait, that he wouldn’t really ever be verbal due to severe speech issues except for those really close to him. He has issues that even we still don’t understand the complexity of. But those issues don’t matter. Keith refuses to allow his disabilities to define him, he will define them. He has proved many people wrong, and has become a great friend to many. While he may have a speech impediment and struggles with learning issues directly related to his disabilities he lives his life with great joy and seeks adventure around every corner.
Keith had gotten his start climbing in of all places Recreation Unlimited. Keith attended Heart Camp through Nationwide Children’s Hospital. His first weekend at Heart Camp, he fell in love with Recreation Unlimited and their climbing tower. That tower is massive and he climbed it. He also swung from a tree and that is where we feel his love for climbing began. And of course Boy Scouts played a huge role too. Keith also was involved with Boy Scouts. He went to summer camps and his favorite activity, climbing. He went to Red River Gorge where they climbed as a troop; he has been white water rafting too. He overcame many obstacles and eventually earned his Eagle Scout rank with the help of his family, especially his sister Beth who put up with a lot (she had to help deliver popcorn) and his Boy Scout Troop 355 of Marysville.
Enter Vertical Adventures and their Adaptive Ascents program. A little over 3 years ago we heard of a new program starting at a climbing gym in Columbus through adaptive sports connection formerly known as TAASC (The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition). In case you haven’t heard of them, you need to check them out. We signed up to attend the free Adaptive climbing event they were holding and it was amazing. First of all it was free and for those of you not aware, many places especially adaptive events are never free. Everyone at Vertical Adventures was welcoming and truly happy to see all the people who came to participate in their event. We met Amanda Warren who with a few others began the adaptive program at Vertical Adventures and we were excited to be a part of it. When Amanda left to travel the country and move to Nevada we hoped the program would continue and this is when we met Jordan Kessler. He is one of those people you are lucky to meet and learn from. He has a passion for people and climbing like very few people we have ever met before. He has overcome cancer and has proven life is about the adventure. Jordan has not only been Keith’s climbing coach for over a year but also one of Keith’s greatest friends. He pushes Keith to try harder and I am thankful for that. He treats Keith like anyone else, disability or not. We have seldom found that in our journey as a “special needs family’. We never imagined that Keith would have a passion for climbing the way he does. It is like therapy for him. He has always and still struggles with flexibility and muscle pain due to his disabilities but climbing helps in ways nothing else has. He has built friendships and learned life skills that have carried him all the way to two USA Climbing National Adaptive Climbing Competitions, one in Somerville Massachusetts and one in our home climbing gym in Columbus, OH. During his first adaptive nationals we couldn’t believe how far he had come, but little did we know that in just one year he would compete in his second USA Climbing National Adaptive competition and qualify for his very first IFSC International Federation of Sport Climbing championship competition in Innsbruck Austria. Wow, just wow. He hasn’t even been climbing like many of these athletes have for years just 4. Just 4 short years in a sport that he loves, that he feels he is good at it and it challenges him.
Before we planned our trip to Austria we went to a training camp in Louisville, Colorado. So off we went to meet his coach that would be traveling to Austria to coach the entire USAparaclimbing team. We had never been out west so we enjoyed the drive and the experience of just having the opportunity to travel and learn from new people at the EVO ROCK and Fitness. This gave him the opportunity to learn from others and meet some of the rest of the team.
While he was in Innsbruck he had the opportunity to talk with people from all over the world and he didn’t shy away from conversation although he has a speech impediment and thelanguage barrier didn’t bother him. He made friends from across the globe and came back with his sights set on Tokyo Japan for the 2019 IFSC World Climbing Competition. But he has to first tackle his USA Climbing Nationals in March 2019 that will be held in Columbus, OH. He didn’t place as high as he hoped but he came in 13th out of 15 and was close to finishing one of the routes which were hard. They were holds that Keith has not had much experience with but now we know what we need to do to train for next year. To just hear his name announced as representing Team USA made our hearts swell a little.
Keith is also the hype coach for The Benjamin Logan Raiders, a high school football team. He has been assisting with the team for 4 years. Coach Fay, the head coach asked Keith to be part of the team after meeting Keith at a charity event. Keith has been able to teach the young men on the football team about things that they may never learn sitting in a classroom. He is referred to as Coach K and is making a difference in others’ lives in ways most us will never do.