Cameron Thomson doesn't have a letterman's jacket, although she's one of the most accomplished athletes at North Medford High School. What symbols Thomson does have to show for her athleticism, however, are some of the strongest, most callous-covered fingers of any 15-year-old in Southern Oregon.
Thomson is one of the country's best rising stars in the sport of climbing, and going into the second installment of the Bend Boulder Bash series this Saturday, she's at the top of the rankings.
Anxious nerves and sweaty palms aren't a thing when she's hanging on the wall, even if her opponents are twice her age. Usually, that's because she's beating them. After placing first in the opening Boulder Bash event in mid-October she's an early favorite to claim the women's title at the season's end.
While most kids her age were still getting their bearings on two feet, Thomson was scaling boulders like Spider-Man. Born in Colorado, her family moved to Medford when she was five. Maybe it's because it wasn't all that long ago, but she still vividly remembers the fateful occurrence that led to her discovery of the sport.
During a trip to a park in Ashland, she and her sister found a climbing rock to play on. For hours, Thomson stuck to the boulder like glue. Realizing he was raising a natural climber, her father brought his then 6-year-old daughter to the gym shortly after their visit to the park.
From there, everything fell into place as she kept ascending. Thomson joined the bouldering team at Rogue Rock Gym near her home when she was eight. By the time she was ten she was competing at Nationals.
As a young climber, Thomson has competed in events across the United States and placed 18th out of 37 in her category at the SCS Youth National Championships this past July. Her victory in the first stage of the Boulder Bash a couple weeks ago came in the first money competition she's ever entered.
Although Thomson is beginning to make a name for herself in the sport of bouldering, most of her friends at school don't realize just how good she is or that she can cling to rocks with only her fingertips.
"They think it's super easy," Thomson says. "They say it's like climbing a ladder."
In climbing, contrary to popular belief, Popeye arms and tremendous upper body strength aren't essential to success. Instead, excess body mass creates a disadvantage, which is partly why Thomson's small and limber frame hangs on the wall so effortlessly.
Aside from training and competing, Thomson is also the assistant coach of her gym's Rogue Rock Team. She spends three days a week coaching and the rest of her time training—when she's not at school or doing homework. As her coach Matt Lambert likes to say, Thomson is a "rock star."
North Medford offers more sports than most high schools, such as equestrian, hockey, snowboarding/skiing, and rowing; but there's no rock climbing team at NMHS, or at any high school in Oregon. Thomson would like to see that change one day.
"There are a few people that want to get all the high schools in Medford and Ashland doing climbing," she says. For now, though, she's focused on preparing for the next Boulder Bash competition this weekend at Bend Rock Gym.
The rock prodigy says her goal is to eventually be a professional climber and route setter when she gets older. If she stays on the route she's been climbing, those goals are closely within reach.
Bend Boulder Bash
November 14, 4-8:30 pm
Bend Rock Gym,
1182 SE Centennial Ct.
$20 to compete, free to spectators