Heavy lifting: Milton High student climbing weightlifting ranks

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Tom Miller
Monday, February 17, 2014

When Connor Felstead leaves Milton High School for his part-time job, the senior knows he'll be lifting a lot of weight.

Felstead doesn't work at a warehouse or stock shelves.

He actually lifts weights.

Felstead is a trainer at CrossFit 608, a workout facility at 940 N. Parker Drive in Janesville. Felstead also is working toward his dream of making the U.S. Olympic team in weightlifting.

“I don't know about 2016 but in 2020,” the 18-year-old said of his Olympic aspirations.

Felstead just took a few steps toward that goal when he won his weight division in the 2014 Junior National Weightlifting Championships in Aurora, Colo.

He has been invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for the Pan American Games camp in mid-March. With a good showing, including earning a spot on the Pan-Am team, he could get invited to train full time at the Olympic Training Center while attending the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

“If I make the Pan-Am team, which right now I'm qualified for, and no one beats me out for my spot, my chances are looking pretty good,” he said of getting into the Olympic training center.

If that doesn't work out, he could attend LSU-Shreveport, Eastern Tennessee or Northern Michigan and earn a weightlifting scholarship.

Reaching this point was not in the conversation six years ago.

Felstead, who was a gymnast at an early age, moved from Lansing, Mich., to Milton when he was in sixth grade after his father accepted a job at J.P. Cullen & Sons.

The move ended Connor's gymnastics aspirations because he would have had to go to a private school to continue competing.

Although he ran track and field his freshman and sophomore years at Milton, his high school athletic career basically ended when he suffered three concussions in a span of four months during football and wrestling seasons his freshman year.

Weightlifting, specifically the snatch and the clean and jerk, has taken the place of traditional high school sports offerings.

The clean and jerk is picking the weight up in one movement to the chest and then lifting it above the head and holding it there with straight arms. The snatch involves one movement of lifting the weight from the platform to locked arms overhead.

Felstead weighs between 154 and 156 pounds (70-71 kilos) and wants to get down to 152 for the upcoming Arnold (yes, as in Schwarzenegger) Classic in Columbus, Ohio.

His eating habits resemble those of a normal 18-year-old.

“I don't have the best diet, so I clean it up like two weeks before. I lift, and that helps me cut weight,” Felstead said.

“I eat what I can,” he added, chuckling. “I have good metabolism.”

He chewed up his competition in the Junior National Weightlifting Championships in the 20-and-younger division.

Felstead lifted the most in both the snatch (110 kilograms) and clean and jerk (140 kilograms), but because he weighed a bit more than his competitors, he placed third in the snatch and second in the clean and jerk.

His overall lifted weight of 250 kilograms did earn him first place overall.

“It was awesome,” Felstead said of gold.

Felstead has two coaches. Spencer Arnold, 27, resides in Dallas and corresponds with Felstead through emails.

“I send a lot of my videos to Spencer,” Felstead said.

Roger Nielson of Schaumberg, Ill., a two-time Olympic coach, is his other coach, and Felstead is able to see him about twice a month.

“They did all the numbers,” Felstead said. “All I had to do was lift the weight.”

His personal bests are 113 kilograms (250 pounds) in the snatch and 143 kilograms (315 pounds) in the clean and jerk.

Felstead trains two to four hours a day, five days a week. He also is a certified trainer at Crossfit, a national fitness chain that utilizes weight training and exercise.

“It's not just strength and it's not just cardio,” Felstead said. “You have to mesh everything together.”

If Felstead meshes things together like he plans, you might be watching him tossing weights above his head in at the Summer Games in Tokyo in late July or early August six years from now.

Tom Miller is a page designer/sports writer for The Gazette.

Last updated: 7:19 am Monday, February 17, 2014

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