While rock climbing, Charlie Kelly ’14 said he tends to be so focused on maintaining his breathing and his balance that when he returns back to the ground he has forgotten the details of what he has just done.

Although he may not remember the details of his climbs, what he will remember is his fourth-place finish on Saturday at the Collegiate Climbing Series National Championships in San Diego, Calif., after four hours of indoor rock climbing. Kelly was the first ever Yale competitor to participate in the annual tournament, with his trip being funded by the Yale club sports office.

Approximately 130 men and women from across the country traveled to San Diego to take part in the competition. Kelly was chosen to represent the 30 climbers on the Yale team.

“[It] is a huge honor for both me as a climber,” he said.

The competition included a series of short and long climbs — also known as bouldering and sport climbs — with more than 100 routes to choose, Kelly said. Kelly said unlike most competitions, he scored well on his bouldering, and finished with the second-fastest time in speed climbing. Rather than just focusing on climbing ability, the competition required more time management and strategic choices of routes, he added.

Kelly said he considers climbing a slow and meditative activity, and although all the climbers were quite serious, he said most were still eager to make friends.

“It’s not like people were helping each other figure out the routes and problems too much or anything, but nobody was stealing shoes or anything either,” Kelly joked.

In addition to the friendly fellow climbers, Kelly said he found it heartwarming that the judges, who were stationed at various points along the route, constantly offered words of encouragement and tried to calm the athletes down.

“I am always terribly anxious and nervous until both my feet are off the ground,” he said.

Kelly’s teammates praised his climbing abilities.

“He works hard at it and he has a lot of talent for it,” David Lilien ’13 said.

Kelly said he started climbing during his freshman year of high school, after spending a day with his friends at a climbing site.

“From the moment my feet left the ground that day, I was hooked,” he said.

Kelly said he has not been able to achieve his longtime goal of climbing the Karakoram mountain range in Asia due to financial constraints.

“This summer I’ll be training a ton and I really think I’m going to get after [the Karakorams] in the summer of 2012,” he said.

Kelly said he plans to win the CCS National Championships before leaving Yale. The Connecticut Rock Gym sponsored his gym fees, while Trailblazer sponsors his gym fees.

Before he began rock climbing, Kelly was a ski racer and trained six days a week.