This year raw and equipped nationals were split. This meant that I didn’t get to see a lot of the team members that I normally do at nationals. As such, it was just my team and myself from at nationals. I did not compete this year as I have way too much going on to dedicate to a meet right now. I am looking at a meet this winter though, as I really want to improve upon my last performance.

It was a great meet as always. Ezra Salmon puts on some of the best meets I’ve ever been to. They run fast, efficient and on time. Most meets don’t start until 9:30 but always say they will start at 9. Ezra’s meets start right at 9 and they move fast. For lifters and spectators this creates a much better experience. The meet was held in the Devoss Center in downtown Grand Rapids. It is a great venue and Grand Rapids has a lot to offerfor entertainment.

We arrived at weigh-ins on Friday night as one of my coaches, Dan Wade, had to weigh in for the 242-pound class on Saturday. APF had gotten rid of the day of weigh-ins for nationals, so this changed our travel plans and we had to leave earlier than we thought originally. He made weight and we went to eat.

We had another car load coming up later in the evening and they met us for dinner. Scott Kline, an intern, Kayla Goyette and Cassie Prenger, both coaches, all came up later in the day, due to athlete groups that had to be trained. As a light guy, Scott, was lifting on Sunday with the girls, so he also had to ride with them. Kayla was cutting to 132-pound class so as she ate just asparagus for dinner, I drank a beer and ate bread in front of her, being the nice guy I am. We all enjoyed teasing her but of course were proud of her for making her weight the next day. Cassie didn’t want to cut so we had to stop her from drinking beer and she weighted in as a light 165-pounder at 152 pounds on Saturday morning.

We were done with lifting on Saturday by 2 p.m. and on Sunday by 3 p.m. Raw meets run a lot faster than equipped meets as the weights aren’t as heavy and people don’t take so much time messing with their gear. It also helps that Ezra has a great system going where he gets lifters through quickly and efficiently. I was telling my staff that I’ve done meets where you squat at 11 a.m., bench at 4 p.m. and pull at 9 p.m. These are miserable meets and not fun for anyone involved.

Nic, myself, Dan and Adam, another one of my coaches who happens to be Kayla’s boyfriend, all went out on Saturday night. We had dinner with the whole team first and met up with some great friends that I don’t get to see very often. The girls and Scott went back to the hotel and we went out to have fun in Grand Rapids. It was just the guys and our female intern Maria. She is 21 and about 120 pounds. She learned a valuable lesson about drinking the same amount as a 300-pound man: it will not end well for you. I’ll just say that she will probably not make that mistake again. While I was up at 6:30 a.m. to get the girls and Scott to the meet, she was hating life.

This was Dan and Scott’s first meet. Kayla has done a deadlift-only meet but not a full meet. Cassie has only done one meet, last year when she was interning for us. As such, it was a very green crew that needed lots of attention on Saturday and Sunday. I let my assistant program director, Nic Bronkall, handle the coaching of all our staff leading into this meet. I had so much on my plate and thought it would be a great experience for Nic. Originally, he was going to compete but had a skateboarding injury about six weeks before the meet. This unfortunate event really allowed him to focus on being a coach and not worrying about lifting. Even though Nic didn’t compete he said “this year I got to coach and honestly it was extremely rewarding. Watching my teammates training come together on the platform and crushing PR’s was more rewarding than any PR I have ever hit.”  This is why Nic is such a great coach. Lifting is fun and sort of selfish, but to be a great coach and enjoy coaching, you much enjoy other people’s success just as much, if not more, than your own.

Among the big PR’s for my crew was Cassie hitting a 61-pound PR in the deadlift. She nailed 275 but was called for some hitching that I did not see. If she would have gotten white lights that would have been an 82-pound PR. When I asked Cassie’s to recap her training she said, “seeing my body change, my strength increase and technique become more consistent was the best part of the process.” Kayla hit a 35-pound PR in the deadlift from just a few months ago when she did a deadlift-only meet over at Julia and Matt Ladewski’s gym.  I asked Kayla what she thought of her first full meet and her response really summed up the best part about this sport. She said, “I am so grateful to be apart of such a supportive family at The Spot.”

At the end of the day, after you hit PR’s, set world records, or whatever your goals are, it’s your training partners that really make you who you are. If you don’t have a great coach and training partners, then you really need to assess where you are training.

Of course Dan and Scott got PR’s with every lift, as this was their first meet. Scott really impressed me with a 407.85-pound pull at a light 165 and only 19 years of age. I think with a lot of work Scott could pull 600 at 185, but time will tell. Dan pulled 430 pounds, which is such an improvement from where he started when he came in for the first day to lift with us. Dan is a little older than some of the other people who are doing their first meet so his perspective on the experience was really cool. He pointed out how impressive it was to see 14-year-olds and 74-year-olds all on the platform, competing and trying to get stronger and better. This is another great thing about our sport. Although you may not be able to be the best in the world when you are 74 years old, you can still be training, competing and being a part of a sport that I will always love and support.

Overall, it was an amazing weekend. Everyone lifted well, I got to see old friends, make new ones, and watch my staff get closer. Some people only compete in local meets and I understand this as it is more cost effective and you get to be comfortable staying at your own house. I don’t think that this is the best thing for the lifter and/or the lifter's team, though. We chose to do nationals because it put our people out of their comfort zone. They had to travel, some had to cut weight while traveling, and everyone had to be responsible to remember all their gear, get prepared and compete on a national stage. While none of my coaches who were competing are at a world class level yet, if I prepare them for that level from the beginning then it will just be another meet when they do get to that level.

Also, it is a huge opportunity for team building. Whether it’s a powerlifting team or a staff of coaches like we have, going out of town, staying in a hotel and driving in a car for six hours lets you get to know each other better. To me, I want my team to all be like family and what better way to bring a family together than a road trip and competing against other people.

The Spot Athletics