Weightlifting team is newest addition to Falcon athletics

After many years of consideration, the formation of a Falcon varsity weightlifting is now a reality.

Bryson Shrimplin performing a Clean and Jerk exercise.

Daniel Schnur

Bryson Shrimplin performing a “Clean and Jerk” exercise.

Daniel Schnur, Staff Writer

Saint Stephen’s athletics is paving a new road for many student-athletes to showcase their strength with the introduction of the weightlifting team. This new, varsity sport provides an opportunity for athletes to participate in an activity that they might have not considered before.

The inclusion of weightlifting as an official, varsity sport at Saint Stephen’s has been considered for years, but the green light wasn’t given until the start of the 2022-2023 school year. Coach Josh Conn, alongside many of the strength and conditioning coaches, worked tirelessly to introduce weightlifting to Falcon Athletics.

Much of the season is still to be determined, with the teams still fluctuating in numbers and schedules being figured out. What we do know is that the Falcons will be competing against many varsity rivals, including Bradenton Christian and Cardinal Mooney.

Athletes will be competing in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, which can be broken into three main categories: bench press, clean and jerk, and snatch. The lifters are split into different weight classes, ranging from 61 kg to 109+ kg, allowing for representation of strength at ranging body weights.

If you’re wondering how weightlifting is a competitive sport, there are two different metrics for strength that lifters compete for. The first benchmark of strength is the combined total weight accumulated from the bench and clean and jerk. The secondary benchmark is based solely on the weight lifted in the snatch, measured as a stand-alone event.

The bench press involves the lifter lying on a bench, pressing the weight upward with a barbell. In the clean and jerk, the athlete lifts the barbell from the floor to the shoulders and then from the shoulders to an overhead position. In the snatch, the athlete raises the barbell overhead into a squat position and stands up in a smooth motion.

Some Falcons are joining the team with weightlifting experience.

Senior Bryson Shrimplin, a competitive lifter in the 61 kg weight class, joined a gym immediately upon moving to Bradenton. Not knowing the gym was Olympic weightlifting specific, he was introduced to the sport somewhat accidentally. Through years of practice, he managed to compete on state and national levels in the USA Weightlifting Federation.

In his Junior year, he placed 2nd in state, landing him in 5th place on the national level. “I was excited to compete at the high school level,” Shrimplin said, “because I had only competed at the state and national levels.”

He added that the mental aspects of the sport have helped him outside of the weight room. Perfection of technique and mobility greatly developed his patience and willingness to put in the hours. This benefit of increased patience was needed to get his goals of lifting mechanics that are as refined as possible.

Due to weightlifting’s rising popularity in American culture, there has been a huge boom on Instagram and other social media platforms. “Lifting, especially with the female population, is becoming much more popular,” said coach Erik Schulz, Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning for Saint Stephen’s.

A common misconception from many athletes is that injuries are only mitigated by stretching and mobility. Coach Erik Schulz said that, “gaining strength and doing a good strength program is going to reduce injury.”

He views it as a balance of mobility and strength that allows for the athlete to perform optimally. On the surface, it can be viewed as just a competitive environment of various lifters, but there is more to the sport than just that. Weightlifting, as a sport, benefits the athlete physically by teaching them how to lift weight properly, and how to train in the gym in an effective manner.

While the girls varsity season started off with their first meet on October 10th, their next meet is October 26th at home versus Parrish High school. The boys varsity is set to start this Spring.