What a meet for Catalyst Athletics…
Most of you probably read the write-up Greg did on the American Open
last week. I don’t want to repeat the stuff he told you, so I’ll try to find some fresh thoughts about the things I saw in Palm Springs. When Greg described the awesomeness of the whole experience, he wasn’t exaggerating or overblowing it. I’m telling you straight up…that was one hell of a weekend for the Catalyst team.
Between the American Open, Junior and Senior Nationals, Collegiates, Olympic Trials, etc., I think I’ve competed in about thirty national meets. I’ve probably coached in another ten or fifteen. All of them stand out in my memory for one reason or another. When athletes think back about their careers, we usually focus mostly on our own performances. We remember big lifts we made, medals we won, etc. It’s fun to recall those times when we walked onto that platform and unleashed the fury.
However, the meets that have always been the most special to me are the ones where my entire team had success. I was a member of a pretty powerful club back in the 90s. We won a lot of trophies and had a hell of a lot of fun along the way. That’s the kind of weekend the Catalyst team had at the 2012 American Open. There’s a certain combination of strong performances, nightly camaraderie, and team mojo that makes the whole weekend feel like a trip into another dimension. When it’s all over and you come home, your head is still spinning and you feel like you went to a different place for a few days…and I don’t just mean another city.
Greg already recapped the competition. But I want to hand out some personalized awards to the rest of the gang. So here are some of my customized honors to the members of Catalyst Athletics:
The Not-The-Day-I-Wanted-But-I’ll-Be-Back Award- Blake Barnes and Mike Gray
- Rough performances are part of being an athlete, plain and simple. We’ve all had days when things didn’t go exactly the way we wanted. I’ve sure as hell had a few. Blake (whose name is pronounced ba-LAH-kay) and Mike are tough competitors, so they’ll return with a vengeance. They’re also my kind of guys, and I hope I’m there when they finally release the kraken.
The Scruffy Rogers Best Newcomer Award- Tamara Holmes, Alyssa Sulay, Chyna Cho
- Tamara is the strongest human being on the face of the planet, so it didn’t surprise me when she ripped through a 96 kilo clean and jerk like it was a dirty shirt. Alyssa and Chyna both damn near went six-for-six in their first national meet. Lifting on the big stage for the first time can rattle people, but they went out there and did their jobs like they were seasoned veterans. All three of these ladies are peaches, and it was my pleasure to work with each of them.
The Cool-Under-Pressure Award- Jolie Gentry
- There’s probably nothing tougher than missing your first two snatches in a meet and having to make the third one to avoid a bombout. If you compete long enough, it’ll probably happen at some point. When you get in this situation, it’s a test of your character and personality more than your strength and technique. Jolie showed exactly what she’s made of when she got on that platform and pulled it out. Made me proud to watch.
The Fighting-Through-A-Tough-Day-And-Getting-The-Job-Done Award- Greg Everett and Brian Wilhelm
- Greg was feeling the effects of all the work a coach has to do when he runs a big team like this one, but he still managed to snatch a competition PR and total over 300. I know a lot of weightlifters who can’t do that. He understands that when you’re a coach, you have to sacrifice a little of your own lifting for your athletes. It’s part of the job, and he still put up solid numbers. Brian got into a tight spot and had to attempt three clean and jerks over 200 kilos in a space of about seven minutes. It’s hard to understand how tough that is to pull off, and watching him nail 201 on his third attempt to avoid the bombout and secure the silver medal showed a lot about what kind of competitor he is. Brian will become one of our finest US lifters.
The Breakout Performance Award- Jessica Salvaggio
- I met Jessica for the first time this weekend, but I’ve known about her since she was a junior. She’s one of the most talented girls in the country and, like a lot of lifters, it’s taken her a while to figure out her mental approach to competition. I told her after the contest that I think this performance will change her career for the better. She found out that she’s capable of things she might not have thought she could do. Her best years are coming up soon and it couldn’t happen to a nicer gal.
The 6/6 Award for Perfection- Tamara Solari
- There’s probably a little buzz going on about Tamara after this meet, and it’s well justified. She has incredible strength, speed and technique, and her competitive ability showed up big time when she went six-for-six and made all new PRs. This gal has unlimited potential and it’s gonna be fun to watch what she does in the future.
The Kicking-Ass-Like-A-Veteran Award- Caleb Ward and Kara Doherty
- There’s nothing better than watching experienced competitors doing their job. Caleb and Kara have both been champions many times already, and the example they set for new lifters is a huge asset to the entire team. This was Kara’s first national meet after having her first baby, and Caleb set all new personal records in the 105 kilo class. The way they just stayed calm and locked in on their performances was inspiring, something a newbie can learn a lot from.
The Best-Athletic-Supporter Award- Freddy Camacho
- It’s hard to know where to start with Freddy because he has so many tremendous qualities. His man crush on Donovan Ford, his loving acceptance of old broads who smoke cigarettes, his shy personality…the guy is just a big wad of joy. Hanging with Freddy was one of the highlights of my weekend and I would love to sit down and have a drink with him again. Maybe next time the management won’t ask us to leave.
These people were a kick in the ass, plain and simple. I would hang with any of them, anytime.
In Greg’s write-up, he mentioned how exhausting and stressful the whole weekend was. He wasn’t kidding. By Sunday night, I think we all felt like we had just survived a war. I felt even worse for Greg because he actually competed on Friday and then had to coach the rest of the weekend. Fortunately, he has a system worked out where all he has to do is yell “DIET COKE!!!” and somebody sticks one in his hand. Seriously, it’s exactly like Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder.
I didn’t find myself irritable and ready to collapse when it was all over. I felt energized…and happy. I got to see a lot of the old weightlifting crowd, people I’ve known since I was a teenager who were right there with me during those great years. And I got to meet new people, the kind of people I hope I know for years to come, the kind of people that make this sport feel like my home.
When it was all over, Aimee asked me if this weekend reminded me of my old days with the Calpians. It’s funny she asked, because that’s exactly what I had been thinking the whole time. Catalyst Athletics reminds me of the team I grew up with. Working with Greg reminds me of working with my old coach, John Thrush. And since those are the two best compliments I know how to give anybody, I’ll let that be the end for now.