State Champs and Beyond: Qualifying for the American Open

Hello!  In the next 15 minutes I’d like to tell you about an exciting opportunity.

“You can do it!”

I watch a lot of infomercials.

For a lot of you guys competing at the State Champs, this will probably only be your second meet.  And that’s fine.  But you should have an eye to the future.  You should know what it will take to qualify for a national meet.  The next national meet following the state champs will be the American Open in Palm Springs, California.  So lets take a closer look at what these qualifying totals are.

2012 American Open Qualifying Totals
Weight Class QT
48 kg 91 kg
53 kg 118 kg
58 kg 129 kg
63 kg 140 kg
69 kg 145 kg
75 kg 150 kg
75+ kg 160 kg
Weight Class QT
56 kg 147 kg
62 kg 180 kg
69 kg 216 kg
77 kg 247 kg
85 kg 260 kg
94 kg 277 kg
105 kg 288 kg
105+ kg 290 kg

So those are the numbers.  If you’re close right now you’ve got a few weeks to push it. 

You may not qualify for the AO at this meet.  You may not even come close.  But you should at least know what your QT is.  We had a lifter from Jenks qualify for the AO at Exile.  She didn’t even realize.  A few others qualified for other national meets as well.  Many got very close and I expect a few of these Exile veterans to do very well this time around.

So tell me, how close are you?  Will you qualify?



Unloaded: A Look Back at Lock and Load 2012

I’ve been on the competitive Oly scene for just over a year now. Done five meets, put 61 kgs on my total, and climbed within earshot of qualifying for senior nationals. Thing are really starting to click. It’s funny, though, after coming so far the only thing on my mind is how far I have left to go. A few weeks ago at Spoon Barbell Club’s 2012 edition of the Lock and Load Olympic weightlifting meet, I took stock of my progress and a small step toward the next level of competition.

Van Alstyne Fine Arts Center

I’ve done meets in the barn before. It’s quirky. A little weird. Things moo. You can walk outside and pick a ripe peach from a tree and eat it. You can walk inside and find vintage Batmobile toys, antique clocks, and various tools, crafts, and artifacts scattered around the warm-up area. I kind of dig it. And there are usually some pretty salty lifters in Spoon meets. One thing that made this meet special was the experimental formatting of the competition. At Lock and Load 2012 the guys at Spoon unveiled something called the Money $ession in which $400 in cash prizes was up for grabs. If you want to improve turnout and entice some of the better lifters in your area to compete there’s a very simple formula to follow: money talks.

Why Not?
You had to qualify for the Money $ession based on your Sinclair coefficient (total/bodyweight) in recent competitions. I was fortunate to make the cut. Essentially, this session hand-picked the 10 best lifters and challenged them to improve on previous PRs. I knew I could do well here due to a very successful training camp flush with PRs. I also know that when you take the top echelon of athletes, they are far less likely to show dramatic improvements. Noobs improve by leaps and bounds; elites fight tooth and nail to tack-on an extra kilo every so often. Me? I’m somewhere between the two, steadily improving but still good enough to count myself among the top dogs: ideally positioned for a strong showing in the Money $ession. As soon as I got word that I made the session, I knew the money was mine to lose. Sure, there are better lifters in my group, but how many of them are going to walk in there and add 15 or 20 kgs to their best total?

The day of the meet I got up early, feasted on sips of distilled water and grilled chicken bits, and hit the long and winding road to Van Alstyne, Texas. FFWD through some desolate grasslands, roadkill, and a blur of iTunes, and I’m barn-side, starving, and looking for the scale. I weighed-in a kilo under the limit. At this point I’m fairly dehydrated and a little shaky. I have GOT to start keeping an eye on my weight sooner than a week out from the meet. Rapid weight loss when you’re a 17-year-old wrestler is one thing, and quite another when you’re a 33-year-old weightlifter. But, I’m under the limit, so I’m good. I take my cow jerk shirt and I’m off to eat, drink, and be merry.

Event T-shirt
The Money $ession was the second session of the day. As the final clean and jerks from session one are wrapping-up, I begin my transformation into the purple kilo eater and ease into my pre-competition ritual. Agility drills, leg swings, foam roll, PVC work. My biggest challenge here is to pace myself and stay relaxed. My Oly coach Steve Miller did an excellent job of structuring my warm-ups and keeping me in the Goldilocks Zone . He also has a great eye for the speed wobbles that turn into misses when loads increase. One issue I did run into early on was shakiness and instability in my arms, especially overhead. This is likely a result of dehydration in the two days prior to the meet. I dropped 10 lbs to make weight and things definitely felt a little . . . “off.” Lifts I’ve been crushing consistently for weeks now feel unstable overhead. We opted to drop my opener from 115 kgs down to 110 kgs to alleviate some of the growing uncertainty.


When my name is called I’m beyond ready. Borderline jittery. Coursing with a cocktail of anxiety and adrenaline; wound up like a Tesla coil. Taking the platform feels good. There’s a nice crowd and a good vibe in the air. As I take the bar in hand the steel feels hard, heavy, and surprisingly cold. The knurling is sharp. The 10-year-old Eleiko I’ve been using doesn’t have this kind of bite to it. I roll it in and set my starting position. As I squeeze my chest up and raise my head I get my first uncomfortable feeling of the day: awkwardly staring directly into some dude’s eyes in the front row. I avert my eyes and find a better focus point, fill my lungs, and begin the lift. The liftoff is smooth and controlled. I feel the knurling scrape my shins – a little more than I’d like to. Passing the knees I go full-throttle and explode through the scoop and extension. The bar bangs off of my hips and flies overhead. I put about 130 kgs of pull on a 110 kg lift, almost lost it behind me, and caught the lift with hardly a third pull to speak of. I let out an awkward laugh, hold for the down signal, and let gravity take it from there.

I always feel enormous relief after hitting an opener, but this one carried a heaping side-dish of disappointment. Power is not my problem. My problem is being smooth, controlled, and hitting full depth on my third pull with speed and stability. So, in terms of doing what actually matters and setting the technical foundation that will allow me to walk out of here with a monster snatch PR today, I’m now 0-for-1 and my coach is not pleased.

We call for 120 kgs on my follow-up attempt. My training PR is 122 kgs and I’ve lost some epic battles with 125 kgs on recent occasion. So I’m getting into the red zone, but it’s not crazy time, yet. The goal at this point is two-fold: 1) improve on my competition PR of 114 kgs to put myself in position to win prize money, and 2) set myself up for a final PR attempt in the mid-to-high 120s.

Again, I feel solid walking up. Good energy. Good focus. I avoid the gauntlet of eyes as I set my back and lock on my focus point. I’m determined to correct the flaws of my opener and really stick this lift. Here’s where I get into another problem I have: I can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. If I concentrate on the top, I’ll screw up the bottom; if I focus on the bottom, I’ll screw up the top. And, I screwed up the top. Obsessed with attacking the bottom position, I failed to finish the pull, left it out front, and never had a chance. The bar shot back down to Earth like it had bands on the ends. I was completely shocked. Not because I missed a lift 2 kgs shy of my PR, but because I missed a snatch in a meet. In five meets and 15 snatch attempts I’ve missed ONE lift — this one. Bit of a game changer. Perhaps a much needed wake-up call. I opt to repeat at 120 kgs and I’m lucky enough to get to sit while Dutch Lowy takes a stab at it. Now, the motivations change. If I miss this, I’m out of the running for the money. More importantly, I’ll fail to improve on existing competition PRs and totals. Hitting this is absolutely critical. I focus my anger and urgency and when my name is called I waste little time taking the stage, taking the bar, and throwing it through the @#&% ceiling, repeating all the errors of my opener, but at this point a green light is all I’m chasing. And, I’ll take it. Coach remains displeased.

I’m not thrilled either, but on paper things are going quite well. I’m 2-for-3 and I’ve logged a 6 kg increase on my competition snatch PR which is good enough to claim victory in this portion of the Money $ession. It also puts me in a nice spot for most improved total if I can do what I’m capable of in the clean and jerk.

After some decompression I set my mind on CnJ. Much of the anxiety has worn off. It’s time to TCOB. Warm-ups go fine. Everything feels good. I open at 135 kgs which is 1 kg shy of my competition PR. I’ve hit CnJs up to 142 kgs and cleans and jerks separately up to 150 kgs, so I’m planning on making some significant improvements in the lift today.

My opener is fairly easy. I’m fired-up. Feel strong. After dispatching 135 kgs I move up to 143 kgs – a 1 kg training PR and a 7 kg competition PR. Hitting this will put me in the lead for most improved total and about 1 kg shy of most improved CnJ, allowing me a final attempt for all the marbles.

I’m in the groove. I’m 3-for-4 on the day, feeling loose and confident. I set up on 143 kgs and rip it sternum high. I rack it in a good position and ride it to the bottom, catch a nice bounce, and drive back up. At the top I pop it off my shoulders a few inches, reset my hands, and re-catch with soft knees. Everything is spot-on. Pull in some air, set my chest, rock back on my heels and prepare for launch. Dip, pause as the bar flexes, drive. Stick the split and recover. Excellent lift. I made 143 kgs look like it should have been my last warm-up. Easily the best thing I did all day.

At this point the meet gets strategic. As much as possible, I’ve achieved my goals, hit competition PRs in both lifts and in total, hit training PRs in CnJ and total, and I’m one kg shy of winning most improved CnJ ($100) to complement my most improved snatch ($100) and most improved total ($200) awards. I call for 145 kgs. Honestly, I wanted to roll the dice a little more, but I’m a bit fatigued by now and that shaky feeling I got warming-up for snatch never quite went away. I’m following myself on this attempt so it’s a quick turnaround and I’m back on the platform. The bar is loaded. I’m 4-for-5. A big money sweep is on the line. Hey . . . it’s showtime.

I look 145 kgs square in the eye, stomp the platform, and prepare to administer swift justice. I go Shankle on it: pull the bar like I’m ripping the head off of a lion. I catch it surprisingly high and immediately know something is wrong. It lands about two inches in front of my collar bone. I feel my weight shift from my heels to my toes. I feel my upright posture tilt forward. In the blink of an eye the plates are bouncing on the ground in front of me. Turns out, I did not Shankle it; I just shanked it. Left it out front, caught it funny, bowed to the weight, and missed the clean which, upon video analysis, was an easy lift caught well above parallel and it just went south from there.

At the end of the day emotions are bittersweet. I went 4-for-6. I hit personal PRs in CnJ (+1) and total (+2). I hit competition PRs in both lifts (+6, +7) and in total (+13), improving significantly from my previous meet just three months prior. I took 1st in my weight class and won two of the three cash prizes in the Money $ession, walking away with a gold medal and a check for $300. Yet . . . with all those marks in the win column, I walked away knowing I’m still reinforcing bad habits, performing below my potential, and leaving kilos out there on the platform. I know that power snatching and caving on cleans is not going to get me to the American Open. If my ultimate goal is being the best lifter I can be and competing at a national level, cheap medals and big checks don’t fill the void. It’s a long drive home. And, this is the sport of Olympic weightlifting: hit heavy lifts, win, take the money, and still sit around depressed for a week.

After Lock and Load I took some time off and reset, but I’m back in the gym now with a new level of maturity and focus. I’ve resolved not to set foot on a competitive platform again until I’m ready, mentally, technically, physically, to do what I’m fully capable of and to qualify for nationals.

Thanks to the guys at Spoon for putting together another fun and unique competition, and congrats to all the lifters who came out and competed and made this a great event. We hope to see many of you at the Oklahoma State Championships and Open this July 21st at CrossFit OKC!!

I’ve thrown together some highlights of the meet (below). Enjoy.

2012 Oklahoma State Championships & Open

How’z ery’body derin?

The State Championships are a go.  They’ll be on July 21st at Crossfit OKC.  Registration is open.  Contact me for an entry.

Entry fees are the same as they were for the Exile Open.  $30 for Adult divisions and $20 for Youth.  Also, this time around we are offering a $5 discount on entry fees for any athlete that volunteers to help out.  This is intended to ensure we have an adequate pool of loaders for the meet.  Exile Open was our first rodeo and we may not have been completely prepared.  At times we had to pull volunteers out of the audience seconds before the sessions started.  There is a section on the entry form where you can check a box to be a loader or judge.  You may also be asked to do other tasks such as run the clock or assist with weigh-ins.  In the event we have more volunteers than we need, we will find a job for you.  $5 is the max.  So if you check both boxes that doesn’t make you eligible for a $10 discount.

Also note that this is a State Championship as well as an Open meet.  There are checkboxes on the entry form for this.  Being a State Champion is reserved for residents of Oklahoma.  Out of state lifters will be lifting in the open meet to run concurrently with the championships

Right now the first weigh-ins are to begin at 7 in the a.m.  Sorry ladies.  But this is nothing to really worry about.  It’s actually worse if you have to weigh-in later in the day.  Ask Jim Denofa of Crossfit Havoc.  He was hungry at Exile Open.  So you ladies can show at 8:30 after you just woke up from an overnight fast and easily make weight. Another reason we are starting so early is that XFit OKC has no A/C.  And we will be lifting in July.  We’re renting some additional fans to help keep things cool.  But everyone we’ve spoken with who has been at XFit OKC in July says it is hot, but not unbearably hot.  I have noted on the entry that I reserve to right to modify the lifting schedule as I determine necessary.  No changes will be made after the registration deadline.  Be sure and put your contact info on the entry form to ensure you will be notified.

What else?  We are giving shirts to each lifter so be sure to indicate the size you need.  Jeremy is gonna want to get these printed on American Apparel (standard Crossfit shirt, athletic fit) while I will be pressing hard for  something on Gildan Ultra Blend (standard Elite FTS shirt, more loose fitting).  I actually hate AA.  So we will probably split the order between the two.  Feel free to chime in with your opinion on this.

There is also a few questions about you as a lifter.  List your best snatch, clean & jerk, and total in kilograms if possible (pounds / 2.2).  This way we can let the audience know if you are going for a PR attempt.  Be sure you write down your club and coach if applicable.  There is another line for “Achievements.”  Here you would list things such as any records you may hold or if you have qualified and competed in a national level event.  These are just some things the announcer (me) can use to add a little color to the commentary.  I’ve only got about 30 minutes worth of decent jokes before I become very annoying.

That’s pretty much it.  You must be a member of USAW to lift.  Please bring your card or you may not be allowed to lift.  If you fail to make weight you may lift but will not be eligible to place.

Also, please be sure to fill out everything on the entry form.  Partially completed entries are very annoying.  Contact me if you have any questions.

I think I’ve covered everything.

Le Prez