Gains are the mission of New Trier weightlifting, just not the gains you think.
More weight on the bar and more muscle on the body are positive results, but to coach Jim Davis and company the real prizes are mental growth and increased participation.
The proof of all of New Trier’s gains was again showed off in the annual USA Weightlifting High School Throwdown, for which 120 Trevians combined to lift 57,000 pounds, the highest total in the competition for the third straight year.
The participation in the competition was the highest yet for New Trier, which featured 90 participants three years ago.
“Nothing we ever do is just about lifting weights,” Davis said. “We talk about social-emotional learning every day in the weight room. Our student-athletes can feel that something meaningful is taking place when in that environment. … That’s why people keep showing up. If all we did was increase people’s bench presses, I don’t think we’d have the same numbers.”
In the high school throwdown, high schoolers across the nation complete three lifts — bench press, back squat and clean. The totals are tabulated along with their classmates’ to reach a team total. Individual honors are also awarded.
The event is virtual, and schools send USA Weighlifting recorded lift totals along with video of the lifts. Not every submission is accepted.
Davis said that every participant who completes successful lifts counts toward the team score — another positive message for the group.
“Every pound counts to a team score,” he said. “Every kid matters. You don’t have to break records to score points for a team.”
New Trier had two weight class winners in the competition. Senior Ellie Song, the program’s president, finished atop her weight class for the third time, and fellow senior Alex Mendes conquered his division after a year that featured multiple injuries.
“(Ellie Song is) a rockstar,” Davis said. “She is kind, humble. She’s the counterbalance to what the stigma of a powerlifter might be. She’s a great person who happens to be an elite athlete.
Speaking of Mendes, Davis added, “It was a tough year for him physically. He’s worked hard on staying optimistic and is diligent about being in the weight room. Alex doesn’t miss.”
Davis also made special note of the club’s vice president, Ryan Fenner, who finished second in his weight class by only a few pounds. Fenner put up a 425-pound squat, which was among the top lifts in the entire competition, Davis said.
But the cumulative score is what delivered a national title to New Trier, and for that, Davis had to credit all involved.
“I am proud of how many kids stepped up to the plate,” he said. “This event is about putting your best foot forward. You got to max out, give it the best you got. Who has the best technique the best spotters today. If you have the best effort out there and don’t shy away from competition as a group, good things can happen.”