- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

GIBSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Although it’s the beginning of summer break for most of its weightlifters, there’s no time to celebrate for Gibsonville’s Alamance Barbell Club. Its 17-and-younger members will be heading to the 2015 USA Weightlifting National Youth Championships on June 24 in Minnesota. All of them have qualified for the event.

“It’s coming up soon, and we’ve been pushing ourselves so hard to make sure we’re at where we need to be,” head coach Christopher Jones said. “It’ll soon get to that point where the lifters will be really sore and thinking, ‘Did I do enough?’ But with time and trust in themselves, they’ll be fine.”

Jones’ club, located at the KaiJax gym, 1001 Springwood Ave., will be a part of the 400 17-and-younger athletes competing in the championships, who are split into groups based on age and gender.

The team may be young, but it doesn’t lack experience. It won best female weightlifting team in the 2014 N.C. Weightlifting State Championships, and several members received high marks in last year’s National Youth Championships, Jones said.

To improve its placement in this year’s tournament, the club is increasing its workload while staying on a consistent schedule: It alternates between five two-hour sessions and two four-hour sessions each week. With practices becoming more intense, Jones is emphasizing the deload periods - planned recovery days - so the lifters can stay loose.

The club is 16 members strong, but its most promising members are in that 17-and-younger category. The youngest member, 8-year-old Ellie Henderson, lifted 55 kilograms (121 pounds) Monday, her best total yet.

“I’m so nervous, but I’m also a little excited,” Henderson said of the Youth Championships, her first national event.

The only sport Henderson competes in is weightlifting, but others on the team use weightlifting to improve their performance in swimming and track competitions.

“Squatting can really help swimmers increase their leg strength and get faster times, so I’ve coached a lot of kids that swim,” Jones said. “It also helps short-distance sprinters get a good start off the line.”

The club isn’t exclusively focused on youth weightlifters, however. Jones competed in the Pan-American Masters from June 5 to 7 in Savannah, Ga., an international weightlifting competition for those 35 and older with entrants from North America, Canada, Mexico and South America. He finished second.

“It was tough, but I was thrilled to be there and compete,” Jones said.

Jones enjoys competitive weightlifting, but he said coaching is his real passion. He has coached archery, scuba diving and weightlifting throughout his career.

Jones passed the coaching bug on to one of his protégés, Cassidy Konzelman, last July.

“I love coaching,” Konzelman, 17, said. “It’s difficult, and I have to pay attention and make sure the lifters are using the right technique, but it’s also a lot of fun.”

Konzelman will be coaching younger club members at Youth Nationals, but she also will be competing there as well, hoping to improve upon her Top 5 finish in last year’s tourney.

“I was only lifting for a year at the time, so I think I can do even better this time,” she said.

Jones said with lifters like Henderson and Konzelman, the future of the Alamance Barbell Club has a high ceiling. One member, Chance Clark, 17, has qualified for the USA Weightlifting American Open in December in Reno, Nev., where he will compete against potential Team USA members for the 2016 Olympics.

“We’ve only been an official club for three years now,” he said, “and if our résumé keeps growing like it has been, and we keep working hard, lifters that train here can get to Olympic-level competition.”

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Information from: Times-News, https://www.thetimesnews.com


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