Weightlifting squad pumps its way to early success Dedication keys East Coast Gold Team

July 29, 1992|By Neil Lippy | Neil Lippy,Contributing Sports Writer

UNIONTOWN -- Coaches can testify to the trials and tribulations of a young team. In some cases, it takes years to produce positive results.

But for the fledgling East Coast Gold Weightlifting Team, every competition has been a success.

Officially, the team has been formed only since February, but it has won two competitions. The most recent victory was the Regional Challenge Cup in New Jersey in April.

"First there is strength in numbers," said coach Leo Totten on his team's perfect record. "When we put everybody together, we had a strong team. Plus they all work hard and are very motivated -- they go after it."

Totten, a power weightlifter himself, has been coaching since 1984 and has members from seven states on the team. But the majority of the 16-and-under members are from Francis Scott Key High, where Totten teaches.

"It was an accident," explained sophomore Mike Phelps of his introduction to power weightlifting. "We were lifting for football and saw a couple of the guys Olympic lifting and asked Mr. Totten what they were doing and he showed us. Since then we've been Olympic lifting."

Phelps, who has been lifting for just a year, took fourth in the Regional Challenge with three personal records and qualified in his 132-pound class for the National Junior Olympics, which will be held in Rochester, Minn., Aug. 5-8.

Including Phelps, seven Key High athletes qualified for the National Junior Olympics: Scott Lowman (148-pound class), Sam Clingan (148), Robert Buntin (148), James Trout (132), Scott Klegg (105) and Mac Carr (181).

Junior Shelley Smith has proved that lifting isn't just a man's sport by qualifying for the Women's National Championships and taking first in her weight class at the National School Age XTC Championships last year.

"This is just you competing against yourself," said sophomore Scott Lowman.

Lowman embodied the spirit of the team at the regional meet when he needed a clean and jerk lift of 175 pounds to qualify for the nationals. Lowman's previous best was 15 pounds short of that mark, but he made it on his last try and with ease.

The competition in Olympic lifting is divided into three scoring categories -- the snatch, the clean and jerk, and a total from the two lifts.

Most of the competitors for the Gold team set three personal records at the regional meet.

In his first meet, freshman Sam Clingan qualified for the Junior Olympics with a fourth-place finish. Sophomore Josh Chadwick won the regional title in the 114-pound class with three personal bests.

"I think Leo's direction has a lot to do with it," said Todd Herring, a physical therapist, former Totten pupil, and financial supporter. "He'll get lifters to come out and work on a Sunday morning when nothing on the green earth is up. He's a great motivator and he knows the technical side of lifting, too."

Herring, a former Key wrestler who began lifting to try to improve his performance, has contributed greatly through his time and money to the Gold team.

"Todd has done incredible work," said Totten of his former student, who now works for Carroll County Physical Therapy. "He's been real helpful to the team and to the school."

Totten and the team use the facilities at Key High for training. For Carroll residents such as David Bell (242-and-up class) and Kevin Bankert (181), the travel to the gym presents no problem.

However, the location presents an obstacle for other team members, some of whom live as far away as Delaware and New York.

"We can work closer with the lifters here in the school's facilities," said Totten. "Before, we had to use videos and calls to aid in some of the training."

Distances and work aren't the major concern for the team -- finances are. For a team of 10 to travel to an event such as the upcoming American Open in Shreveport, La., it can cost more than of $15,000.

"Our goal is to go to the American Open in early December . . . and to win it," said Totten. "We want to have at least six lifters go to the nationals and place in the top three."

Anyone interested in helping the East Coast Gold team can contact Sharon Buntin at 751-7322, or write 307 East Broadway, Union Bridge, MD 21791.

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