Four weightlifters from Team Hinesville’s weight lifting team went to Iowa to participate in the 2009 AAU Junior Olympics and came back to Hinesville wearing three gold and one silver medals.
"We won the overall boys division," Team Hinesville coach Jenna Bussard said. "We took four guys, three guys got gold and one guy got silver."
The coach has long said her goal was to place the local team on the nation’s radar. She said earning the medals and having two members of her squad qualify to compete internationally is a good way to get some attention to a group of athletes in a sport with a seemingly low profile.
David Purcer earned a gold medal competing in the 105K weight class. It was his fifth time on the center stage. In his second junior Olympic showing Jacob Mackrill earned gold in the 85K division. Jaleel Menifee has competed twice before in national meets but earned gold in his first AAU Olympics and moved up a weight class to compete at 77K. It was Dominique Brunson’s first Olympic showing and he earned silver in the 56K division.
All four hit a new personal record according to coach Bussard.
Brunson tried to hit a national record with a 77K lift.
"I lifted 67K, 74K and attempted 77K but injured myself so I didn’t make it," Brunson said.
Bussard said Menifee, who normally competes in the 69K weight class, helped the squad earned more points by competing in the higher weight division. She said Team Hinesville and Team Beaufort combined and competed under the umbrella of Team Savannah. She said the young weightlifter who won gold in the 69K division was a member of their squad so Menifee’s finish aided their overall score.
"Overall the reason he got second place is because he is a newbie and the guy he competed against has competed for three years," the coach said about missing the fourth gold medal. "It was just a lack of experience on Jaleel’s part."
As for community support the coach said it’s slowly trickling in as the squad continues to compete and earn accolades.
"The Team Beaufort branch was on the news for us and got the word out for us about us and we did a radio show before we headed out," she said. "I think that, and I hate to say it like this, but based on my experience it’s not that they don’t care, they have not recognized who we are yet. It’s going to take time. It’s not going to happen overnight so I can’t be upset with it."
Bussard added members of the city they represent during competitions have taken notice and recently stepped forward. "The day before we left I did talk to Kenny Howard and he did end up giving us some money for the trip," she said. "We had a situation at the last minute where one of our kids couldn’t pay the money at the last second so he funded for that kid to go. To me that is a step forward as far as having their support."
The coach said she is busy applying for grants through the health department and through United Way to help cover the cost of the trips to competition. Lady lifter Kayla Rand made the 2009 Pan-Am 17U Championships meet scheduled for September and is headed to Chile. Mack Brunson will go to Canada in November for the Quebec Junior Championship.
Rand is busy out and about as she tries to secure the remaining $1500 she needs by next Friday to make the meet.
Bussard said in addition to the international meets for her two competitors and her qualifying meet in Colorado to make the world team, the lifters have one more meet, the American open in Alabama, to prepare for before they hit their off-season.
Bussard said Dominique Brunson is currently trying to qualify for the American Open in a higher weight class.
"I believe he qualified in the 56K class already but we are going to try and qualify him in the 62K class just to see what that would do," the coach said. "If he makes the 62K class he would be competing against his brother Mack."
"It’s not a big deal," Dominique Brunson said about the possibility of going up against his older brother.
If you would like to become a sponsor or make a donation to help Team Hinesville, call Bussard at 429-0931.