Springfield College Powerlifting

John BotelhoCorrespondent IIApril 21, 2009

BEIJING - AUGUST 19:  Viktors Scebratihs of Latvia performs his final lift to win the bronze medal in the Men's 105 kg group weightlifting event at the Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics Gymnasium on Day 11 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 19, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Buried deep under the new field house is a room many people have never experienced.  One would go past the track, down the stairs, and through the heavy maroon doors.  Through those doors is a hallway that appears as if it could go on forever.  A hint of music floats from open doors that look like you would need a taxi ride to reach them on the end of the hallway.  Moving closer to the doors, past the life size images of All-Americans Chris Sharp and Jane Kelleher that are mounted on the wall on the right side of the hallway, the music grows louder, and is accompanied by more clatter of noise.

The grunting voices coupled with the clanging of weights are the first indication of what is going on through the doors.  Once through the doors a group appears, covered in sweat and red in the face.  They likely won’t notice anyone who walks in joining them after the long trip to what is the varsity weight room.  Only, Monday through Friday from 7:30-9:15, and twice on Tuesday and Thursday this one particular group isn’t in there hitting the gym for off-season workouts.

This group is recognized on campus the same way ice hockey, rowing, and skiing are-as a club sport.  The Powerlifting club though receives at least one special perk that other club teams do not.  “We are the only club sport allowed to work out in {the varsity weight room},” said club president and founder, grad student Dan Jaffe.

He originally formed the idea of bringing a powerlifting club to the SC campus with sophomore Eric Discko, who serves as the club’s vice president.  “The personal satisfaction of getting the club together, then garnering a following as we have over the past three semesters makes me ecstatic,” said Jaffe.  “I can only imagine the potential a team like this has on a campus such as this. I said to the team at our first lift, we will become national competitors, and do our best to give schools like LSU and Texas A&M a run for their money.  We’ve got the athletes (at Springfield) do it.”

             The club has already started to take steps towards achieving some of that potentially that Jaffe is talking about.  This past November a dozen lifters trekked across the state to the ACS Fitness Center in Abington, Mass to compete in a state powerlifting competition.  The team finished 2nd overall and had 11 competitors bring medals back to Alden Street. Additionally, the team had three of it’s lifters win state titles at the event.  Allison Bradshaw, Evan Gross, and Mark Bruno each laid claim to a state crown.

            The club plans to continue to grow and compete.  Several it’s members will be competing in an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) event next weekend in Scituate, Mass.  Three members of the team have also qualified for AAU Nationals in Smithfield, RI on April 21st.  Joining Jaffe at nationals will be Bradshaw as well as Chad Nelson. 

The next time the whole team will enter a meet could be later this year.  Jaffe is hoping that Springfield College can host an event of it’s own, bringing about 300 lifters to gym hidden away in the dungeons of the field house.  “We’re hoping to host right before reading period and give people a chance to vent before they have to crack down,” said Jaffe.

Hosting a tournament could effect the club not only on campus, but on a potentially national and international level.  “It would be through the AAU.  I want it to be a national qualifier and a world qualifier,” said Jaffe.

Having the event on campus would mean that every single one of the club’s athletes would have the opportunity to compete.  Having the more than 40 people on the roster all lifting at a qualifying event would open up greater possibilities of having people earn the right to attend those national and world events, also gaining exposure for the team and school.

Even though the team has athletes capable of competing with the nation’s best, Jaffe made it clear that any one of any skill is level is welcome and encouraged to join the club.  He also pointed out that the lifters comer from a variety of backgrounds.  “The roster is basically composed of half the rugby team, the whole wrestling team, some of the football players, and 20 or so individuals who don’t play a sport (at Springfield College).  We also have lifters of all sizes, ranging anywhere from about 100 lbs to a little over 300.”

The team has been practicing all year.  Practices consist of a warm up to change the core temperature then the team works on movement-specific dynamic flexibility for the various lifting events-squats and bench press are both included in this.  The team also takes part in light plyometrics which help develop joint stabilization, balance, and coordination.  The team then moves to a metabolic circuit, core work, and finishes up with “strong man” type of activities such as the fire-man carry.  Jaffe can easily explain why these athletes go through these rigorous practices day in and day out, and what exactly they get out of it.

“It becomes obvious when someone works their heart out to get what they want, and when others just go through the motions and come up short. People, including other lifters, seem to have a pretty good sense of these things and will respond to it,” he said.  “The camaraderie among both teammates and competitors alike is something I never thought possible. Even at competitions, other lifters will come up to congratulate you after a good lift, ask for advice, or even give some pointers of their own. At the NE Championships (in Abington), every single one of our lifters received huge recognition from all the other competitors.”

For Jaffe and the other 40 or so members of Springfield College’s powerlifting club, making the long journey to the depths of the field house is a frequent one.  The repeated trips past the track and down the stairs, through the doors and along the length of that hallway have already helped the club find some success. 

With any luck, those hallways will soon play host to lifters visiting from other schools for a competition as well as members of the SC community who have competed against the Tigers of LSU and the Aggies of Texas A&M.