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Kai Lightner, 18, holds a dozen national sport climbing titles, and is ready to take on the world.
"The people I have met along the way are integral parts of who I am, and who I've come to be," Kai said.
Kai has been climbing since he was 6 years old.
"Climbing for me gives me fulfillment, because I have to put so much hard work into the sport, and it's something I have always loved to do," Kai said.
Trees, fences, even a flag pole. By 15 he was the top climber in his age bracket. He competes indoors on rock climbing walls, but his passion is climbing in the great outdoors.
"I think being a professional rock climber taught me a lot of qualities including perseverance and how to work hard for what you want," Kai said.
His mother is usually with him.
"Usually when he is out on those 100-foot-tall mountains or in the gyms, I'm on the other end of those ropes so I am keeping him safe," Constance Lightner said.
Kai said some folks tried to talk him out of rock climbing. But he never gave up on his passion.
And so it seemed fitting Wednesday that the Reid Ross Classical 2017 senior class valedictorian challenged his classmates to follow their dreams.
"At the end of the day, we must remember it is our life, our happiness and our future," he said.
Kai is taking a year off before college to begin training for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
On Friday, he travels to Colorado to compete in the World Cup.