Elizabeth ‘Ellie’ Sepulveda is at the top of her game—literally. The 17-year-old Fairfax Station resident is a professional rock climber, and has established herself at national and global competitions in the youth division through all three disciplines of rock climbing (bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing). Sepulveda ranked fourth at Nationals in July, and for good reason: The young athlete can speed climb a standardized 15-meter wall in 9.37 seconds, her best time to date. She is currently training for the Pan American Championships, being held this month. We asked her about her athletic pursuits.
How did you get your start?
I was at summer camp; I was 11. My friend kind of dragged me to the climbing wall. I wasn’t super interested. I was kind of scared and intimidated but she made me try it with her. I remember the first time I did it, I got to the top and I just fell in love instantly. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. From there I came home, I told my parents, “I found my sport,” and when I turned 12, I joined the local climbing team, started on the rec team, and then I worked my way up.
Biggest accomplishment so far?
This past year was pretty big for me. I made the national team for the first time ever. I made youth semifinals in a different discipline for the first time and I was invited to the first-ever combined invitational National Championship. That’s an adult category, so that was huge for me. And at Youth World Championships, I placed fourth.
What’s your ultimate goal?
I have a lot of goals. Pipe-dream goal would be to win a World Cup. That’s the ultimate in my mind. That’s a huge deal; an incredible feat. I have to make my way to the adult national team first. Climbing is a sport where there are so many factors that come into play. For me, it has always been about personal improvement and being happy with my results. For immediate goals, I really just want to get onto the international stage more. I’ve done a few international adult competitions, but getting to be there more regularly, that’s a big goal of mine.