With school out for the summer, the mighty weightlifters that comprise Team Hinesville once again are hoisting up heavy irons as they prepare for this season’s local and national meets.
Team Hinesville Weightlifting, a local branch of Team Savannah Weightlifting, has collected its fair share of hardware, winning many meets over the past decade. The team trains at the weightlifting facility adjacent to the Shuman Recreation Center at James Brown Park.
Coached by Chris Wood, the group works hard in the sport of Olympic weightlifting. During practices, the athletes perfect their techniques and perform several sets of clean-and-jerk and snatch lifts. Because the movements required to lift so much weight above their heads are so precise, nearly 2-3 minutes of rest is required between sets.
This year, Team Hinesville will send two older athletes to the 2014 National University Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Sept. 25-28.
Armstrong Atlantic State University student and Team Hinesville competitor Mia Hannah said the collegiate-level meet is her main focus this summer.
“That is really the one big one. I always do the local ones, but I am looking forward to going out and competing at a location outside of Savannah. It will be cool to see other people not just the same faces from Savannah,” she said.
Hannah, 19, said she came to enjoy the sport of Olympic weightlifting because it keeps her physically fit and inspires her to continue working toward her career goal of becoming a physical therapist.
She said her workouts are intense, and while she does her best to eat natural foods instead of processed food, she never truly needs to diet.
Hannah usually trains for up to three hours a day, starting with stretches and building up to her lifts.
She said she wants to snatch-lift 65 kilograms at the collegiate event.
“Right now, I am at 63,” she said. “And I want to be able to clean and jerk 85.”
Long County High School graduate James Fox, 19, has a jam-packed summer, but said he also is looking forward to competing in September.
Fox said he would like to snatch anywhere between 125-130 kilograms, and he wants to clean and jerk between 155-160 kilograms.
It might seem like an impossible task, but Fox doesn’t take challenges lightly. During a meet in April, he broke several Team Savannah lift records.
“Some of them were 10-year records and I destroyed them. I felt pretty good about it,” he said with a smile.
Wood said Fox’s accomplishments were impressive.
“It is actually really significant because pretty much 90 percent of the people who were on that record board either have gone to the Olympics or have gone on to win the nationals,” the coach said. “To have your name on that board is pretty prestigious.”
Fox holds his own outside the weight room, too. He was Long County High School’s salutatorian and was nominated for and attended the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in Washington, D.C. He will spend most of his summer interning in the Philippines.
Last year, Fox was considered a true Olympic prospect for the 2016 Team USA weightlifting squad in Rio, but the pre-med student said he wants to put his academic career first and shoot for the 2020 Olympic team heading to Tokyo, Japan.
“It will be right when I finish my undergrad … and right before I go to med school,” he said. “So if I time it just right, I can hopefully make the Olympic team, and when I get back, go right to med school.”
Fox already has been accepted to Northern Michigan University, where he will begin his post-secondary education and continue his Olympic weightlifting training at Team USA’s facility.
As Fox and Hannah prepare for the collegiate-level meet, Team Hinesville is busy training the next generation of weightlifters.
Brother and sister lifters Dustin and Tori Miller are back after taking time off for school and other activities.
Dustin Miller, 12, is an avid bowler, but said he is ready for some weightlifting competitions and even admitted there are times when he likes weightlifting more than bowling. He said his current personal best on the snatch is 19 kilograms.
His older sister, Tori Miller, 13, took a year off to join Snelson-Golden’s dance team. She said she’s back because she is ready to compete again and she missed the gym. Her personal bests are 32 kilograms in the clean and jerk and 20 kilograms in the snatch.
Sam Phillips, 14, is a relative newcomer to Team Hinesville. He joined the group about a year ago.
“It’s fun, and it keeps you in shape,” Phillips said.
His best clean and jerk to date is 60 kilograms, and his best snatch is 50. He competes in the 62 kilogram class and has brought home three gold medals in his short career. He said he wants to improve all his lifts by 10 kilograms.
Davey Arroyo has been training with the team for the past year and a half and said he competes when meets don’t conflict with his work schedule. He is in the master’s 77 kilogram weight class.
His personal bests are 92 kilograms in the clean and jerk and 67 kilograms in the snatch lift.
Arroyo said he looks forward to the local meets and is introducing his 4-year-old grandson, Canei Prowell, to the sport.
Wood said some of his team members just competed at the district meet, and Team Savannah sent several lifters to the 2014 Youth Nationals this weekend in Daytona.