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Skilled climbers compete nationally

Ryan Strickland

Ryan Strickland

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Zach Galla

SUWANEE -- With nimble fingers and stunning balance, Zach Galla and Ryan Strickland are reaching new heights.

Strickland, 17, is a rising senior at North Gwinnett High School. After placing second in the nation July 8 at the USA Climbing Youth National Championship, he's headed to Singapore in September to represent the United States in speed climbing.

Galla, 12, a rising North Gwinnett Middle School sixth-grader, competed on the same day, finishing in sixth place at the event. Both young men train with Adrenaline Climbing's A-Team in Suwanee under the direction of Head Coach Arian Bates.

Bates said Strickland's 5.44-second ascension during the nationals was remarkable.

"I'd have a hard time running that distance on the ground that fast," Bates said.

Strickland, who's been climbing for about four years now, said he's looking forward to proving himself again at the international event in Singapore, which is scheduled for the end of August.

He said it's his biggest accomplishment yet. "I've been training really hard for the past few months to get this far," Strickland said. "Because school is out right now I've been able to train even more. Getting it all down and practicing.

The young man said, however, that he enjoys the sport for more than the athleticism.

"I like meeting people and having fun, and it gets me out of the house," Strickland said.

Galla said he appreciates those aspects too, but mainly he enjoys "the challenge of it all."

The 12-year-old practices three times a week. Galla said he hopes to continue the training regimen despite not earning a spot on the U.S. national team with Strickland. "I'm going to keep trying my best," Galla said.

Mom, Jenny Galla, said she's enjoyed watching her young son excel at the sport. "He just has a natural determination to succeed," she said.

"There's more to it than just a sport," she added. "The competition is nice. It's nice to win but at the same time you work hard to accomplish a goal, and that's an important lesson for a young person to learn."