NMU Olympic Training Site takes steps forward

Jordan Borges

Northern Michigan University has been host to The United States Olympic Training Site for 13 years.  Athletes from the weightlifting program have been making Marquette their home since the start of the program in 2003.re-Weightlifting

The United States Olympic Training Site at NMU is one of the few programs that offers Olympic hopefuls the opportunity to secure an education as they also pursue their dream of representing the United States competitively at the highest level.

When the weightlifting program at Northern first started, only four men and four women were a part of the program and the need for growth was clear.

The program has produced a dozen weightlifters that have earned individual championship titles, such as 2012 Olympian Sarah Robles, who placed seventh  in the 75+kg women division.

In the early years, even with the program’s accomplishments,  Northern was being outperformed by other weightlifting teams.  Not until 2009 did Northern’s Olympic Training Site program start to show signs of becoming the top collegiate team in the nation.

In 2012, the program went through several changes and challenges.  Vance Newgard was officially named head coach of the program and was faced with  rebuilding the team after the loss of many lifters from the previous years.

This lifting season, after 13 years of work from lifters and coaches,  the NMU-OTS weightlifting team earned its very first Triple Crown victory at the 2015 University National Championship,  winning the men, women, and co-ed championship.

For some individuals on the National Championship team, it’s been a long-awaited victory.  NMU junior and 69kg National Champion Chris Santana and senior and University World team member and University National Champion in the 62kg Ryan Borges led the team with individual national championship victories.

“In the summer of 2014, I injured my right knee,” Santana said. “Instead of going home, I decided to stay at Northern to recover my injury with the help of OTS sports medicine. Winning my very first National title was personally overwhelming and to be a part of Northern’s first Triple Crown National Title Championship was just the icing on the cake.”

Another veteran on the weightlifting team, Borges has seen the program evolve to the highly talented team it has become.

“From the time I first attended Northern Michigan, I was training with lifters that were at such a higher caliber compared to myself,” Borges said. “ Being a part of Olympic Training Site program has given me the opportunity to win many National titles and also represent the USA on the world stage.”

United States of America Weightlifting (USAW) is now seeing NMU become a hotspot for elite level lifters, even over the prestigious Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.  The coaching from Newgard and the ability to earn a college degree while focusing on athletic development are the main reasons that Northern is now a preferred training site,  Ronnie Tucker, OTS weightlifter, said.

The future of Northern’s Olympic Training Site is in the hands of freshmen such as Mason Groehler and Ryan Sennett.

“I chose to come to NMU for a variety of reasons,” Sennett said. “I put a lot of value in the coaching, the environment, the school and my own career.  I can honestly say that Vance Newgard is one of the best coaches for weightlifting in the States.”

The taste of victory is still fresh in their mouths, and the whole team seems even more motivated to return to the competition stage and defend their National title.