The Gainesville Winter Classic was a huge success, thanks to all of our athletes, volunteers, and spectators. We received a major boost from the weightlifting community, with 29 total lifters, 12 female and 17 male, ranging from the ages of 11 to 49.
This meet was originally intended to be a small, in-house affair. We didn't do any marketing for it. We submitted a sanction form and created a quick graphic, that was it. All sanctioned events are posted on usaweightlifting.org, and an unforeseen group of people from around the state found us there and registered. We had lifters participate from as far south as Miami and as far north as Jacksonville.
We were lucky. The deadline to qualify for Masters Nationals was just a week away, and our meet was the only meet in Florida that weekend, so we had a few Masters lifters participate that may not have otherwise. But, I also think something else is happening: the sport of weightlifting is growing. The community is growing and more people are training and competing.
The diversity of athletes and coaches at the meet was amazing. We had veteran coach, Joe Hanson (Donny's first coach when he was 17), from Team Florida Jacksonville and the Athlete Development Center, bring 4 youth lifters, and a couple of juniors. Joe is a larger-than-life dude. He's loud, but humorous. It is apparent that he cares about his athletes. When one of his youth lifters threw a small tantrum, by slapping the platform with two hands in frustration after a second failed clean attempt––Joe pulled him out. That's a veteran coach's move. When a young athlete cannot keep their composure (all of us young studs have been there), their is more to lose from a failed third attempt than there is to gain from a make. That really stood out to me. I learned from him, as a coach, at that moment, by sitting there at the score table, watching.
Chris Follenious, former Olympic trials participant, made an appearance as a coach, for his son Braden, and as an athlete, posting a solid 100/120/220 at 69kg and 49 years of age. He placed second overall, and he was our oldest lifter. Other notable athletes were David Levin, former UF hammer thrower, posting an impressive 130/150/280 in the 105kg weight-class, winning first overall, and Fernando Dominicis, from Team Oly Concepts, posting 96/131/227 in the 85kg weight-class, winning third overall.
Our top ladies were Danielle Keith, from Team Fenrir Barbell, posting 80/97/177, at 63kg, winning first overall. Ariel Lang, representing The Ark and Gainesville Barbell, posting 66/80/146, at 58kg, winning second overall. And, Megan McBride, from Team Florida Gulf-coast, posting 65/77/142 at 58kg, for third place overall.
The numbers above mean: (Best Snatch/Best Clean and Jerk/Total in kg) In the video below, the number to the right of the lifter is the bar weight in kilograms.
Overall, the meet was a huge success. We brought together a diverse group of people in terms of age, experience, ability, origin and background. From a former Olympic trials participant, to a UF track athlete, veteran coaches, the young, the old (sorry Chris, but damn you look good for 49), and everyone in between. Many of our very own athletes had huge successes conquering the platform for the first time, facing the crowd, their nerves and their fears. We had local lifters participate as well as lifters from Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Daytona and Destin.
This event could not have run more smoothly, and we owe that entirely to all of our volunteers: the loaders, the videographers, the referees, and the coaches. Thanks to Florida School of Massage for hooking us up with some free massages for our winners. Also, thanks to the friends and family who came out to support the athletes, The Ark, and Gainesville Barbell Club. We hope you had a good time.