Strength Sports Highlight AAU Junior Olympic Games
All four AAU Strength sports were on full display during the opening weekend of the 2014 AAU Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines. This year’s JO Games marked the first time all four Strength Sports were contested back to back in the same competition.
Powerlifting kicked off on Friday, July 25, with 40 lifters battling throughout the day in the squat, bench press and deadlift. Among the girls, several lifters set multiple records, including 10-year-old Hailey Beuscher, from Louisiana, 18-year-old Jordan Baker from Nebraska (236.5 lb. squat, 258.5 lb. deadlift at 117 lbs. bodyweight), 17-year-old Brook Woodward from Nebraska, who set multiple records, and 17-year-old Delicia Garza, from Texas, who also excelled with multiple records in the 198 lb. class, including a 385 lb. deadlift. Nineteen-year-old Allison Garcia, last year’s Powerlifting Joel Ferrell award winner, was also back in top form, setting world records in the 220 lb. + assisted category.
World records were also set by several male athletes. Ten-year-old Max Crofton, of Shreveport, LA, came out strong, setting records while winning the 10-11, 77 lb. class. Thirteen-year-old Logan Brede, from Nebraska, had a great day on the platform, with multiple world records in the 123 lb. class, including fourth attempt world records in the squat (269.5 lbs.) and deadlift (308 lbs.) at 121 lbs. bodyweight. Fifteen-year-old Evan Pittman, from Phoenix, AZ, set seven world records in the 132 lb. class, and was also the recipient of the 2014 Joel Ferrell award as outstanding athlete in powerlifting. The 16-17, 165 lb. class, competition came down to the deadlift, where 17-year-old Brock Wilson surged ahead of Landon Peery with a 429 lb. deadlift.
The powerlifting team championship was won by Team Nebraska, with Jets Barbell of Shreveport, Louisiana finishing second, and AAA Powerlifting of Hebbronville, Texas finishing third.
Olympic weightlifting athletes turned out in full force to support this year’s JO Games meet, which was co-sanctioned by USA Weightlifting. Ninety-seven athletes came for the all-day battle, which raged well into the night before all the champions had been crowned.
This year’s weightlifting meet saw multiple battles and several U.S. records set. Session one saw 12 lifters ages 11 and under, and 10-year-old Max Crofton, of the Jets Barbell Club in Shreveport, won best lifter while tying the American record with a snatch of 25 kg (55 lbs.) and a clean-and-jerk of 35 kg (77 lbs.). Best lifters crowned in each session were: Ian Estopare, boys 12-13; Abigale Flickner, girls 11 and under; Camile Uhlenkamp, girls 12-13; Alexa Burks, girls 14-15; Elizabeth Weesner, girls 16-17; Marissa Klingseis, girls 18-19; Drew Pashik, boys 14-15; Zachary Burks, boys 16-17; and Braeden Vaughn, boys 18-19. Marissa Klingseis was the 2014 AAU Weightlifting recipient of the Joel Ferrell award as outstanding athlete, with lifts of 100 kg (220 lbs.) in the snatch and 125 kg. (275 lbs.) in the clean and jerk.
The girl’s team weightlifting championship was won by the Wesley Weightlifters, of St, Joseph, Missouri, with South Beauregard Weightlifting, of Longview, Louisiana, in second. The team championship flipped for the boys, with South Beauregard Weightlifting winning the team title, and Wesley Weightlifting taking second.
AAU Combine is based on the concept of the NFL Pro Football combine, as well as combines used in other Olympic and professional sports designed to gauge overall athleticism. The AAU Combine takes it a step farther, making the five events – standing long jump, pull-ups, bench press, power clean, and the 40-yard sprint – competitive events. The slogan of AAU Combine is “Run, Jump, Lift,” and the intent is to identify the best overall athletes at the AAU JO Games.
This year’s combine was co-sanctioned by USA Bobsled & Skeleton, which uses a similar combine to identify high potential athletes for the bobsled and skeleton Olympic teams. The boy’s and girl’s champions in the 14-15 and 16-17 year old age groups this year were given certificates to attend a free bobsled/skeleton driving school at Utah Olympic Park in Park City – site of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
An AAU/USA Bobsled & Skeleton wheeled “push sled” was on display next to the judges table throughout the four days of competition, and was used to entice entries for the day four Feats of Strength competition.
Four athletes repeated as combine champion in 2014, and are two-time winners – Max Crofton, of Shreveport, LA (10-11 boys), DelMario Hairston, of Cleveland, OH (12-13 boys), Ashley Perryman, of Cleveland, OH (12-13 girls), and Evan Pittman, of Phoenix, AZ (14-15 boys). Crofton won four of five events, Hairston won three of five events, Perryman won the 40-yard sprint and finished high in her other events; and Pittman won four of five events.
American combine records set or equaled this year include the standing long jump for boys (Dirion Hutchins – 9 feet 5.5 inches); bench press for boys and girls (West Fowler – 38 reps, Emily Grinning, Hallie Fowler – 46 reps); and strict pull-ups for boys (Evan Pittman – 21).
The team championship at this year’s combine was won by Wild Card Gymnastics, of Wisconsin; Wild Card captured the team title by dominating the younger girl’s age groups. Two teams tied for second – Cleveland Express from Ohio, and Ultimate Speed Academy from St Louis, Missouri.
Feats of Strength
A small group of hearty athletes turned out for the fourth and final day of strength sports activities. Five events were contested – deadlift for repetition, medicine ball throw, farmer’s walk, tire flip and a new event sanctioned by USA Bobsled & Skeleton – the bobsled push.
Women’s bobsled Olympic silver medalists Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauryn Williams were on hand at the start of the Feats of Strength events; both took the microphone and spoke to the athletes and signed autographs. Later in the day, they joined the FOS competitors on the Drake University stadium infield for the tire flip and bobsled push events, which were held simultaneously with the track and field 100M heats with more than 9,000 spectators in the stands.
The Feats of Strength team award was won by the Jets Barbell Club of Shreveport, Louisiana. All of the Jets Barbell athletes competed in all four sports – powerlifting, weightlifting, combine and Feats of Strength, with 10-year-old Max Crofton taking gold in his class in all four disciplines – and Jets Barbell was the only team to compete as a team in all four AAU Strength Sports events.
Overall, the four days of Strength Sports activities featured a variety of competition opportunities for athletes across the spectrum, including the chance to compete on the “big stage” in Drake University stadium during the track & field competition; because of the USA Bobsled & Skeleton co-sanctioned bobsled push events on day four, the athletes also had the opportunity to meet and capture autographs from Olympic bobsledders Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauryn Williams, who appeared at Feats of Strength, track & field events, and opening ceremonies for the games.