Last week, Team 813 Weightlifting ventured to Ogden, Utah for the USA Weightlifting University National Championships. University Nationals is one of the three big national tournaments that takes place in the United States. In order to participate in these events, athletes must achieve a designated score, otherwise known as a qualifying total, for their respective weight classes during the competition year leading up to these events. Team 813 had seven athletes who qualified and competed in this national meet.
The competition itself was scheduled to take place from Thursday to Sunday and most of us arrived the Monday and Tuesday before. We did this for two main reasons — First and foremost, it allowed us to train in the new environment (time zone changes, elevation changes, and lack of humidity). It felt much different since we were all coming from sea level and maximum humidity. Secondly, it allowed us to relax and enjoy the city and the awesome house that we found on Air BnB. Yes, we rented a house. I couldn’t see living out of a hotel for 7 days with no kitchen, no laundry, and no rental car. Plus, it ended up being way cheaper than a hotel in the long run and we got to do our best team impression of MTV’s Real World. #bonding
Leading up to the event, we were able to train at Mount Ogden CrossFit every day. They were listed as the official off-site training center and they were kind enough to let us do our thing a few days early. Tasha went above and beyond to accommodate our group of 11 before they were officially open and for that we are extremely grateful!
USA Weightlifting opened athlete check in at 2pm on Thursday. This is the time when all coaches and athletes verify their attendance and pick up their credentials for the event. Every coach and athlete received an ID badge that granted them access to all areas of the venue.
After athlete check-ins, there were a few more meetings on the agenda for attendees. First was a “New Athlete/Coach Clinic” put on by Coach Daniel Camargo from Florida. We attended his workshop at Senior Nationals and it is a great addition for those who might be new to the competition setting. It covers topics such as flow of events, competition expectations, and important things to know and watch out for when you are in the warm up room.
The next meeting on the agenda was the Final Verification of Athletes. This meeting is pretty crucial as it is the last opportunity to correct any errors, move weight classes (if necessary), change entry totals, etc. Many coaches don’t attend this meeting as their athletes are right where they need to be with the entry totals that they need. We had a weight class error on one of our athlete’s credentials, so we attended this meeting to make sure that everything was good on the final start list (and it was).
Finally, the last meeting before the start of competition is the Technical Conference. This is when they release the final schedule for weigh ins and competition start times. It’s not unheard of for session times change drastically from the tentative schedule that was originally released. Fortunately, the schedule changes didn’t affect any of our lifters so we were good to go — it’s never a good idea to miss this meeting just in case!
COMPETITION DAY 1, FRIDAY:
The venue for the event was Weber State University. USA Weightlifting set up everything in their massive gymnasium and that was our home away from home away from home for 3 days. The college was located in Ogden, UT at the base of a mountain and was absolutely beautiful. There were over 450 athletes registered and they were running two platforms side-by-side.
First up on the big stage was Eduardo in the men’s 69kg A session. Based on his entry total, he was entered 12th on the start list.
Just a quick note: Since there were over 450 athletes registered to compete, each weight category was grouped into different sessions, which were designated by a letter (A, B, C, etc). Upon registration, each athlete provided an entry total for their weight category. Session A has the highest entry totals, Session B has the next highest, and so on and so forth down the line.
We had Eduardo’s opening snatch set at 96, which he made with no problems. We moved to 99 ahead of a large pack at 98, but he missed 99 because of a small technical error. He was set to follow himself, so we moved him to 101 to allow him more time to rest and he came back out and nailed it for the 4th highest snatch in session A. Eduardo’s clean and jerks were looking great during warmups. He came out to open at 118 and had to drop his clean because he was “f**cking dizzy, bro.” We kept him at 118 and he came back out to make it on his second attempt. We moved him to 123 for his final clean and jerk, but he missed the jerk. He had a great day with a 2kg competition snatch PR, 1kg competition clean & jerk PR, and a 3kg PR total, and finished 6th overall out of 38!
Next up was Scott in the men’s 77kg C session. Scott is one of our remote lifters out of the Pensacola area. Based on his entry total, he was sitting 40th on the overall start list and 8th in C session. He had been looking great leading into this meet and hit some pretty big PRs the week before during max week. We set his snatch opener at 96, which he smoked, and moved to 101 ahead of a pack at 100. He missed 101, then we moved him to 102 for a bit more rest and he came back out to make it for the 2nd highest snatch in his session. For Clean & Jerks, we had him opening at 118. He came out and smoked the clean, but put the bar right into his chin on the first jerk. There’s a pretty awesome photo from Lifting Life of the moment of impact (sorry, Scott). He ended up missing that lift and having a gnarly bruise/scrape on his chin. He repeated 118 again for his second attempt and smoked it. Then, we moved him to 125 to have some fun and go for a PR — he cleaned it no problem, locked out the jerk, but it looked like he stepped a little weird in the recovery and the bar came down. Either way, Scott ended up with a 6kg competition snatch PR, a 6kg competition CJ PR, and an all time 12kg PR total. He also finished 3rd in his session and 24th overall!
COMPETITION DAY 2, SATURDAY:
First up on day 2 were our two 85kg lifters Ray and Mike. They were entered in session C and were sitting 39th and 41st respectively. This was by far the largest weight class with sessions to E and 72 total lifters.
Ray and Mike had been looking great in training with HUGE breakthroughs on the snatch the previous week (max week) and have both been ultra consistent in the clean & jerk all the way to 100%. First up on snatches was Mike. His opener at 97 was a miss. We bumped him to 98 to give him a few minutes rest, he missed his second attempt at 98, repeated, and then missed his third attempt at 98. Next, Ray was up at 100 which he came out and destroyed. We moved to 105 for a chance at the AO qualifying total, which he made look easy. He took 107 for his third attempt and barely missed out front.
Clean and Jerks came next…Mike was set to open at 127. He made it, then we moved him to 132 which he missed on a small technical error. We moved to 135 for the PR and he destroyed it. Between Mike’s 132 and 135, Ray was opening at 133. He came out for attempt number one and nailed the clean but missed the jerk. We moved him to 134 for a bit more rest, and he came back out with the same result. We moved Ray to 135 again for more rest and to let Mike take his third attempt. After Mike, Ray came out for his third attempt — he made the clean easily and held on to the jerk, but couldn’t quite stop his feet in time and the bar came down.
This was quite the emotional session for us. First, Mike bombed out in the snatch and then Ray bombed out in the clean and jerk. As coaches, when we spend any length of time working with an athlete, we achieve a level of connection and trust with them that runs deeper than just writing their training programs and shouting coaching cues at them. It’s hard not to feel what they feel…Personally, I felt the anger that Mike felt when he came off of his last snatch. I felt the devastation that Ray felt after failing his third clean and jerk. It made me second-guess the decisions we made for their openers, their warm ups, getting to the venue too early, etc. To be honest, I needed a moment to compose myself, so I went upstairs and paced an empty hallway for 5 minutes. After the initial shock wore off, I came down to address them individually and talk through what had happened.
It wasn’t a factor of someone doing something wrong, someone making the wrong decisions, or someone not performing. We train hard and push ourselves constantly because that is the goal of any sport. I stand behind the decisions we made and their preparation leading into this meet but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen on game day and the cards don’t land where you expect them to — It’s an unfortunate factor to consider and a tough pill to swallow, but on the bright side, a failure to total makes for an easy comeback. I’d take that over an injury any day. To sum it up, Mike ended with a 6kg competition clean & jerk PR (2kg lifetime) and Ray ended with a 10kg competition snatch PR; and even though things might not have gone our way, we are still proud to have them represent our team.
After that session, we had about a two-hour break until Pat and Rachel were up. Pat was entered 12th in the men’s 77kg A session and Rachel was entered 6th in the women’s 63kg B session and 18th overall. Since there were two competition platforms, they were able to run the men’s and women’s session side by side. Having two different lifters in two different sessions at the same time was going to make coaching a bit difficult, so we divided and conquered – Jon and Drew coached Pat through his session and Gen and I coached Rachel.
So, Pat first. We had his opening snatch set at 110 and from where I was standing in the warm up room, it looked like he almost power snatched it! Jon took him to 115 for the second attempt, which he made and then moved to 120. The previous week, he had tried for 120 and couldn’t quite get under it, but this was the time to go for it – if he made it, he would have taken bronze medal in the snatch. We all watched as he pulled under 120 and stood it up, but he got called for a press out on the right arm. Considering he got buried by 120 about 8 days prior, he made that training PR look great. Pat opened his clean & jerk at 140 and missed the first jerk. He repeated it and made the lift, then moved to 145 and missed the clean. He finished 10th overall, ended with a 5kg competition snatch PR, and a 2kg competition PR total!
And up comes Rachel. First off, let me say that she had the longest struggle on the team to qualify for this meet. When she first started weightlifting (like, seriously weightlifting), her best total was almost 10kg below the minimum qualifier, which wasn’t totally out of reach, but she needed some hard work to make it happen. So the way this story ends is that she obviously put in the work because here is a section about her.
We had her opening snatch set at 56, which she came out and accidentally power snatched for a power snatch PR. Next, we moved her to 60 where there was an entire pack of 5 or so other ladies taking the same weight. Luckily, Rachel ended up with the second highest lot number, so we could just wait and see what happened at 60. There were some makes and misses, so we moved her to 61 when they called her name. That forced the last lift at 60kg, which I think was a make, then Rachel came out and smoked 61. We moved to 63 where the same pack of 5 or so ladies were. Again, we just waited and then moved to 64 for her final attempt to finish with the 3rd highest snatch in her session. We played the same game with her clean & jerks — Her opener was at 76 with no problems. We moved to 80 with the rest of the pack, waited, then moved to 81. She caught the clean funny and dumped it forward then came back out to make 81 on her last attempt. There was only one lift left in the session after Rachel’s 81. The lifter missed at 83 which placed Rachel at the top of B session. She ended with a power snatch PR, 4kg competition snatch PR, 7kg competition clean & jerk PR, and an 11kg PR total which ended up placing her higher than a few of the ladies in session A. She finished 10th overall!
Last, but not least, was Jason in the men’s 105kg B session. Jason is another one of our remote lifters out of Pensacola. His session had a late start time of 8:45pm and ran until almost midnight, but we were still determined to crush it no matter how late it was! He was entered 14th in his session and 31st overall. His snatch opener was set at 107 – he went out and missed it because it literally looked like he didn’t want to do it. He came off saying, “We’re good, give me more. I’ll make the next one.” We moved to 108 (which was 1kg under his personal best) to give him some rest and he went out and smoked it. We then moved to 113 for the PR and he made that look easy too. I’d guess he was probably good for 117-120 that day, but we’ll get it soon!
Meanwhile, our team ordered pizzas since we were going to be at the college super late. Since there was a total of 12 of us, we ordered the biggest pizzas we could find. Some place nearby had 16 slice pizzas that were as big as SUV tires. These things were massive and they delivered it directly to the back row of the audience! On the break between snatch and C&J, Jon and I went and grabbed some pizza and ate in front of Jason in the warm up room.
Clean and jerks are Jason’s wheel house so we came out strong at 137. Next, we moved to 142 for a PR match and then moved to 147 to make a big PR. Jason ended with an all time 4kg snatch PR, all time 5kg clean & jerk PR, and 9kg PR total. He also jumped 15 spots to finish 16th overall.
So, that’s it. Competition results were 3 out of 7 lifters finishing top 10, two lifters almost taking bronze medals, and at least one PR of some kind for everyone. It was a great week with the team filled with fun times, hanging out, exploring, and a few ups and downs.
Of course, we can’t forget the people behind the scenes that made the trip happen: Jon and Gen for their coaching assistance; Drew for his volunteering, coaching assistance, and all around awesome company; Andy for snapping some amazing photos and media for Lifting Life, being behind the lens for every team photo/video, and hanging out for the entire week; and of course Emily, Phil, and Robert for taking part in all of our team shenanigans. I wish everyone back home could have been out there with us – those who stayed behind in Florida were surely missed. Now, we have the Florida State Championships to look forward to in a few weeks and we will be there in full force!
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