Sports

Titans Among Us: Macalester’s Strongest Athletes

At the end of every season, the best athletes are recognized for their accomplishments with All-Conference, All-State and All-American awards. Outstanding performance is never left unrewarded. This year at Macalester, fall sports teams had several recipients, including two NCAA All-Americans: Zach Hauser ’16 of the Football Team and Kimber Meyer ’17 of Women’s Cross Country.

These are the awards that everyone hears about. Following each season’s close, however, other awards are given out at each individual team’s banquet. Many of these are conduct awards, including sportsmanship and commitment. In addition to these awards, however, several teams commend strength with 1000 lb Club and Iron Scot recognition. These are the awards that those outside of the athlete circle don’t usually hear about. The recipients aren’t always the best performers on game-day, but they possess incredible abilities that the average human being can only dream about. There are other attributes that don’t get the praise they deserve either, including speed, agility and jumping ability. Today, though, I want to focus on strength.

There’s no better place to judge pure strength than in the weight room. At the beginning and end of each season, athletes test their strength through a series of different methods of lifting weights. At Macalester, it’s much like the NFL Combine which took place last weekend, as individuals compete to see who can post the most impressive numbers. Macalester strength coaches modify the events slightly for each team, but the focus of this article will be on just three, the one-repetition squat, power clean and bench maxes. The male athletes with at least one season left who top the charts come from just two sports teams: the baseball team and the football team.

Nick Sia ’16, center fielder on the baseball team, has the highest squat max out of any current athlete at Macalester. At the end of the fall semester, he managed to support 500 lbs on his back while he squatted down to a 90 degree knee angle and back up again. Football offensive lineman Eric Connor ’17, landed just short of 500, lifting 495 lbs around the same time. With another year ahead of him, he’s the clear favorite moving forward. Connor has his eyes on the all-time Macalester squat record of 545 lbs. Ryan Fleming ’16 and Zach Hauser ’16, have put up 525 lbs and 520 lbs respectively, but have each finished their athletic careers at Mac.

I managed to catch up with Sia, and ask him a few questions about weightlifting and what it means to him. Sia, who is also one of the fastest athletes at Mac, came to Macalester with his squat max already at 420 lbs, but he wasn’t always that strong.

“I’ve always been small and used to be incredibly thin. I didn’t really start to be considered strong and muscular until about my sophomore year of high school, when the workouts I had begun doing started to show more on my body and in the amount of weight I could lift,” he said.
Motivated majorly by his professional powerlifter older brother, who got him interested in weight training as a high school freshman, Sia has without a doubt seen his work in the weight room translate into improved play on the field.

“I think my strength increases have allowed me to not only be healthier during the season but also to put forth more effort and energy each game,” Sia said.

Sia also played football for Macalester as a first year, but decided to focus on baseball for his last three years. Although Sia and Connor dominate the squat, they both get beat out by one Mac sophomore on the bench press and power clean. AJ Imholte ’18 is the current champion in those events, holding the all-time Macalester bench press record at 365lbs. His clean is the active record, at 285 lbs.

Sia and Imholte have both considered pursuing competitive weightlifting before, but both are focused on their respective sports at the moment, using their exceptional statistics to better their performance on the field. “I have never seen weightlifting as something completely separate from my sport,” Imholte added.

He would only entertain the idea of competing after his collegiate years are over. In contrast to Sia, Imholte found his strength at a very young age. “While I wasn’t the strongest kid coming into high school, I quickly got up to speed and eventually, with the help of my coaches and teammates, got to the numbers I am currently at,” Imholte said.

With the 2016 NFL Combine generating media buzz last weekend, I decided to get a few opinions about the concept of a NCAA Division III Combine. While Imholte thought it would be a great idea, Sia wasn’t so sure. “I think that at the Division III level especially, there is no need to really compare the best athletes across the country. I think what’s more important than being able to boast about one’s standing as the fastest or strongest athlete in a particular sport is being able to take pride in the improvements made from year to year,” Sia said.
Connor meets them in the middle.

“I think it would be interesting to have that kind of competition. I’m always up to compete with others, and to be able to come together and get after it would be fun. But I also think it is highly unnecessary,” he said. An NCAA Division III Combine might not be the most beneficial event, but it would definitely be fun to watch.

March 4, 2016

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