It’s an exciting time for women in the outdoor industry. More retailers and gear companies, like REI, are incorporating women in their marketing materials and creating campaigns that encourage women to get outdoors. None of this would be possible without the strong women who make a lifestyle out of outdoor adventure and who show the world each day that having an extra X-chromosome isn’t a limitation.
Four of these strong women can be found in one very talented Colorado Springs family. If you follow the world of adventure sports, especially in the Colorado Springs area, surely you’ve heard of the Mascarenas women. Tina, the oldest of three sisters, has dominated nearly every trail race she’s competed in over the last three years. Megan is a professional climber and claimed two world climbing champion titles before the age of 18. Alexis has made an appearance at the climbing world championships and just began dental school. Not to be outdone by her daughters, Staci, won the Citizens Comp Masters National Championship five years in a row and can often be spotted rock climbing hard at the local crag. If it’s not already obvious, the Mascarenas women make up one badass family of athletes. We sat down with this incredible family to find out what inspires each of them and talked climbing, cute guys, competition, and motherhood.
Staci Suter (a.k.a, Mom), Age 55
Athletic Career Highlights: Winner of the Masters Citizen Climbing Women’s Final at the GoPro Mountain Games 2016-17, Winner of the Citizens Comp Masters National Championship 2010-15 and Runner-Up 2016-17, Hardest send to date – Payment in Pump 5.13b at Shelf Road in Cañon City, CO.
For Staci, raising three talented daughters was a balancing act of support and plenty of outdoor play. She tried to model a healthy lifestyle built on a foundation of hard work and the girls did the rest. A lifetime competitor herself, Staci was a high school gymnast and track athlete who eventually transitioned into climbing when her second husband introduced her to the sport 18 years ago. Ever since, climbing has been an integral part of the Mascarenas household: “Climbing is a huge part of our lives. It’s kind of our social life, it’s our exercise, and it’s something to do when you’re around people that you love or outside in beautiful places. Climbing is that vehicle.” In fact, there are days where you can find three generations of Mascarenas outside climbing – Staci climbing next to her children while her grandkids play at the base of the climb, anxiously waiting for their chance to get on a route (or sleeping soundly in a car seat suspended from a nearby tree).
We’ve all encountered the parents who push their aspiring young athletes just one step too far, or who overstep the boundaries between parent and coach. Staci tried hard to avoid being that parent. “You can’t make someone compete at the level that they [her daughters] do. That’s got to come from them. I want to do the things that a mom is supposed to do, not a coach. I want to take care of them emotionally and physically, support them, and give them that little nudge if they need it, but not push.”
More than anything, Staci wants her girls to recognize that their worth as a person isn’t defined by their athletic pursuits; after all sport is not who you are, just part of what you do. Staci’s words are reflected entirely by her hopes for her daughters’ futures: “My hopes and dreams for my daughters are that they are happy and they are healthy, that they are productive in society, that they maintain healthy relationships, that they continue to be close; and as far as the athletics goes, that whatever they want and wherever that takes them, that they know I will support them.”
Hungry to learn and continue adventuring herself, Staci has her own big dreams; she wants to continue to improve in her climbing ability and recently began establishing her own new routes outdoors. After retiring in a few years, she would love to travel more and could see herself becoming a yoga teacher someday.
Megan Mascarenas, Age 19
Athletic Career Highlights: IFSC Climbing World Cup Champion 2015 and 2016; Sent five V12 boulder problems in 2015, Hardest send to date – Riverbed V13 in Magic Wood, Switzerland.
Sponsor(s): Mad Rock Climbing, VOLX Holds, FrictionLabs, Ambassador for EPIC Bar
When Megan says, “Climbing is my life, my friends, and family,” she’s not speaking allegorically. Her mom and stepdad started taking Megan to the Springs Climbing Center (SCC), when she was 18 months old. Her mother, Staci, recounts: “Some days she’d play on the rock there, some days she’d climb, some days she’d sit at the front desk. We didn’t push her.” Over the last seventeen years, SCC has become a second home and training base for Megan. Years of training have taken her all over the globe and onto the climbing world stage where she has won a handful of competitions including back-to-back titles at the IFSC Climbing World Cup in Vail in 2015-16. “Climbing is challenging both mentally and physically, and I love that,” Megan explains.
As the youngest member in a family overflowing with athletic talent, Megan grew up surrounded by mentors who pushed her to achieve her climbing goals. She largely attributes her success in climbing to the encouragement of her family and the help of her two main climbing partners – her sister Alexis, and Austin Geiman, co-owner of SCC. A lifetime of experience climbing, great coaching, and a supportive family weren’t the only keys, however, to Megan’s climbing success. Outside of climbing, Megan enjoys completing puzzles, a skill that translates well to piecing together complex moves in bouldering problems. “Megan’s problem solving skills are phenomenal,” says her sister Tina. Strength, self-discipline, flexibility, mental toughness, and creative thinking provide the perfect ingredients for a world champion. Megan is well known for completing bouldering problems in unique ways that often seem to defy the laws of physics. Take, for example, her performance at the 2015 Adidas Rockstars Invitational, where she won the event with a crafty toe-hook.
After taking time off following high school to train and compete, Megan is gearing up to start school again at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Following in her family’s footsteps, she plans to head into the medical field while continuing to climb and compete.
Alexis Mascarenas, Age 24
Athletic Career Highlights: Competed at the 2017 IFSC Climbing World Cup in Vail, CO. Sent two V11 boulder problems in 2017, including her hardest send to date – Anger Management in Elevenmile Canyon.
When Alexis first began to climb with her stepdad, mom, and younger sister, she hated it. It wasn’t until she was 14, after several years in competitive gymnastics and a brief stint in ballet that she decided to give climbing another shot. “I kept telling Alexis you need to come to the gym, you would love this [climbing],” her mom said. “She was like, ‘Oh I don’t want to go, it’s stinky, and the guys are stinky, and it’s dusty.” Alexis admits the chalky, sometimes smelly climbing gym wasn’t her scene at first, but she eventually fell in love with climbing, in part, because of all those, well, stinky guys. She laughs because her boyfriend of six years and the co-owner of the Springs Climbing Center, Austin Geiman, played a large part in getting her involved with climbing again. Her natural skill along with the coordination, spatial awareness, and strength she developed from gymnastics all helped her excel at bouldering incredibly quickly.
During her undergraduate years, Alexis decided to take on a bigger role in the climbing gym and began coaching the three youth teams at SCC. She shared her passion for climbing with kids aged 7 to 19 and enjoyed watching the kids improve over the seasons. Alexis also took what she learned from coaching and applied it to her own training and competing. Her hard work training and coaching paid off—this year she competed in her first world cup and sent her hardest bouldering project to date, a V11 called Anger Management in Elevenmile Canyon.
This fall, Alexis began tackling an even bigger project; after scoring in the top 3% on the Dental Admission Test, she was admitted and started her first semester of Dental School at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Between her time in the classroom and studying, Alexis is trying hard to keep climbing as a central part of her life. “Climbing has always been the balance aspect of my life no matter what I’ve been doing. Keep climbing. Keep getting outside. That’s the goal.”
Kristina “Tina” Mascarenas, Age 28
Athletic Career Highlights: Pikes Peak Marathon (PPM) Female Winner 2017 (4:38:54), 3rd Place Female Finisher at PPM 2016 (4:51:34), Top 10 Female Finisher Pikes Peak Ascent 2015 (3:14:49), Top female performer in several local races.
Sponsor(s): Hüma Energy Gel
On any given day, there’s a good chance you’ll find Tina flying down a dirt trail sporting a high bun on her head and flashing her signature smile. But behind that sweet smile is one fierce competitor. Just last month Tina won the Pikes Peak Marathon and broke the 30-year old descent record, running down America’s Mountain in a blazing 1 hour, 29 minutes, 43 seconds.
Unlike many of the seasoned runners at the Pikes Peak Marathon, running is still relatively new to Tina. She spent a decade of her childhood as a competitive gymnast, traveling internationally and training upwards of 35 hours a week. “Competing at that level definitely taught me discipline and hard work. It showed me how hard I can actually push myself.” It wasn’t until late in 2014, following a five-year hiatus from athletics and a divorce, that Tina picked up running. Her older brother and role model, Jesse, would show up at her house and drag her out running with him. “It was miserable, like off the couch, he’d make me run five or six miles. I was just dying!”. A bet between the two siblings led Tina to run her first race up Pikes Peak in 2015. With hard work and training, the miles became less miserable and Tina found a joy in competing again. She had officially caught the running bug, fell in love with the supportive Colorado Springs running community, and has been running (and winning) ever since.
When asked if she ever felt pressure growing up in such a competitive and talented family, Tina responded, “Everyone is really supportive, but there’s always that underlying, ‘you’ve gotta push’. I always joke that I’m the dud of the family and everyone is like, ‘How are you the dud when you’ve won this and that, and had a good GPA?’ I tell them, ‘You have no idea who I’m getting compared to!’ I’ve got one sister who’s in grad school and crushing it, I’ve got another who’s got world championship titles under her name and Jesse is a badass trauma nurse that pulls people off cliffs and saves lives. I just want to run far and eat cookies!”
What’s next for Tina? In addition to looking at competing in some bigger races nationally and internationally, she’s thinking about heading back to school- considering either Medical School or a Physician Assistant Program. “I miss the medical field. I love to use my brain to try and help people.”
So, what’s the secret of the Mascarenas women’s athletic talent?
Staci: “Well, first of all, we have good genetics. I don’t think you can be a world-class athlete without that base. Second of all, I feel like we’ve had the resources to be able to support these endeavors. But one of the biggest things with these four kids [her three daughters and son] is each other. They are each other’s biggest fans. They are each other’s biggest supporters.”
Tina: “Support, love, positive environments. Just seeing each other succeed makes you want to push further and join in on the success.”
Alexis: “I guess just motivation. We’re all very motivated and that came from my mom and grandma.”
Megan: “We have been very lucky with our genetics, but I think it’s pure mental drive that motivates us and continues to push us to work hard.”
Whether great genetics, hard work, raw talent, or a great support system are to credit for their amazing athleticism, there’s no denying that the Mascarenas ladies are gifted examples of women who raise the bar of what’s physically possible, who challenge each other to think and grow as intellectuals, and who inspire those around them to get up and get after it.
Do you know any girls that shred? Tag them with #girlsthatshred for a chance to be featured on our @OutThereColorado Instagram page.