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Posted: Friday, June 19th 2009 at 11:22am

Area prep lifters going for national title in own backyard

By Morgan Lee Editor
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Robby Poole
GAINESVILLE -- For hundreds of prep athletes from around the nation, days, weeks and years of training will all come down to about three seconds this weekend at the Georgia Mountains Center.

To put it more precisely, all that training will come down to three one-second intervals.

One second is how long it takes an athlete to complete a “snatch” weightlifting exercise, and that’s exactly what 330-plus prep competitors will undertake Friday through Sunday in the USA Weightlifting National School Age Championships in Gainesville.

“This is the biggest meet in country for these kids,” said Chestatee High football coach and Stan Luttrell, who is also co-coach for Team Georgia weightlifting, which includes a number of area athletes.

“We’ve been training for three years for this weekend.”

Chestatee, Flowery Branch, West Hall and Johnson High Schools, as well as Chestatee and C.W. Davis Middle Schools, each feature students that are members of the 54-person strong Team Georgia -- which consists of boys and girls ages 13-17. And, according to Team Georgia co-coach C.J. Stockel, it’s a group that has an excellent chance of claiming titles in both the girls and boys meets.

“We’re going to fight for a national championship,” said Stockel, who is the strength coach at Flowery Branch High. “Hope Stockel, Gracie Peck, Ellen Kercher and Megan Poole all will be among the favorites for the girls, while Ed Baker, Robby Poole, Jake Mathis, Chris Rhodes and Steven Jeffries should all be competing for medals the boys.”

Team Georgia’s girls already know what it takes to bring home the gold after sweeping the national title meet last summer in Florida, while the boys finished near the top in almost every category.

For Georgia’s girls to repeat and Georgia’s boys to raise the bar, Stockel says they will have to be wary of several other teams, including Hassle Free weightlifting from California, which has won the past two boys crowns.

“They’re the heavyweights,” Stockel said. “Team Florida, East Coast Gold and Team Houston will also bring strong teams. There will be over 40 different programs here. It just comes down to whoever lifts the most weight on that given day.”

For these competitors, three years of training will come down to three attempts (at each weight level) to complete lifts in both the “snatch” and “clean and jerk.” Each lift ends with the competitor hoisting a barbell over his or her head. The lifts are all currently part of Olympic competition and require the utmost physical strength, speed and coordination.

“The Olympic style of weightlifting is a formula of speed and power,” Stockel said. “You’re driving your feet into the ground and powering upward. It’s all about explosiveness.”

That kind of power is key for all kinds of athletes, which is why so many of the members of Team Georgia got into the sport –- to improve their performance on other playing fields.

“The ultimate objective is to be a better athlete, and this will help you accomplish that goal,” Stockel said. “This kind of training makes you faster; if you train fast, you’ll play fast.

“And if you want to compete at a collegiate level, you’ve gotta’ learn how to lift.”

Stockel should know. In 17 years spent training athletes in the state of Georgia, he has coached 16 school age national champions, eight international team members and three international gold medallists.

He’s hoping that number of international medallists will have a chance of increasing after this weekend.

“The top lifters from this competition will be chosen for two international teams,” Stockel said. “One will go to a meet in Chile, the other goes to Canada -- both in the fall.”

Whatever happens, Stockel says this will be a great opportunity for area sports fans to catch a glimpse of a sport that is as old as any.

"It's one of the original sports in the Olympics," Stockel said. "And we've got so many great lifters in this state and nobody even knows about it."
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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