USOEC lifters hit the gym over summer

Laura Conway

While the country’s eyes were on the London 2012 Olympics, the USOEC Weightlifting team was working straight through the summer.

Head coach Vance Newgard said the team used the down time this summer to train hard so they could hit the ground running for the upcoming competition season.

“This summer was our off season so we did not have any competitions,” Newgard said. “We are getting ready now for the first two competitions of the season.”

The first competition of the year will be held at NMU’s Superior Dome: the Upper Peninsula Weightlifting Championship. Newgard said this is not only a qualifier for another big competition, but also a chance to see how prepared the athletes are.

“Some of the athletes have weight class goals to make by this meet,” Newgard said. “For other athletes, this will be their first competition before the American Open and it will be good to get the jitters out now.”

One of the first competition athletes is freshman Andrew Wener from Munising, Mich. Wener said he is glad he has the competition here at school because he just started Olympic lifting.

“Someone mentioned there were weightlifting competitions,” Wener said. “I know very little about them, so I am kind of diving in headfirst and seeing how it goes.”

Wanting to pursue strength training further than what his high school coaches took him, Wener was glad to be able to come to NMU and start training at the USOEC.

“I heard rumors that the USOEC was going to be closed,” Wener said. “I was psyched to find out the team was still here and working hard.”

The Upper Peninsula Weightlifting Championship is a qualifier for the American Open later on in December. Newgard said the athlete’s finishes at the Open are important for rankings.

“If you are ranked high enough after the American Open, you can qualify for a National team,” Newgard said. “After that you can qualify to make a World team.”

One of the higher ranked junior level athletes on the USOEC team this year is sophomore Chris Young. At 77 kg and in his first year of competition, Young placed fifth at the Junior National Competition last year and has his eyes set on a higher prize this year.

“Last year I was here to see if I liked Olympic lifting,” Young said. “This year I’m here working towards a goal; making that junior world team.”

Post graduate student Breanne Carlson placed top nine at the National University Championships last year which qualified her to make the University World Team. She will be traveling to Israel in early November to represent the United States at the University World Championships.

“I am very excited to go compete on the international stage,” Carlson said. “Not only will I be able to represent Northern, but also my country, against the world’s best student athletes; it’s going to be a great learning experience.”

Even when training for such high stakes competitions, the USOEC weightlifters find time to give back to their community. Over the summer they volunteer at some regular community events to help out where they can.

“We volunteer at ‘Lose the Training Wheels’ every summer,” Newgard said. “It’s a great program that helps children with special needs learn how to ride a bike without the training wheels.”

Newgard said the team is really excited for the Upper Peninsula Weightlifting Championship because it is the first one of the year and they get to compete at home in front of family and friends. He encourages the community to show up and support the athletes for competition at 4:30 pm on Friday, Sept. 28 on the northwest corner of the Superior Dome.