Weightlifting: Spartan Challenge hoping to attract lakes area athletes
What: A weightlifting and speed agility competition
Where: Rocori High School, Cold Spring
Who: Boys and girls entering grades 10-12
When: 9 a.m. July 27
Facebook: @Spartan Challenge
Going through the weight training program as an athlete in the Brainerd School District made an impact on Jake Zauhar.
He graduated from Brainerd High School in 1997 and four years later graduated from St. John's University in Collegeville. This fall he's entering his 16th year as lead teacher/professional development for the Rocori School District in Cold Spring where he's also the Spartans' strength coach for middle school and high school athletes.
While a Brainerd student, Zauhar benefited from weightlifting and participated in the Sunrise Sertoma Warrior Liftathon, an annual event based on the Most Pounds Per Ounce formula—adding a student's bench press, power clean and squat lifts together, then dividing that total by a student's body weight to determine their MPPO. An MPPO over 4.0 is considered exceptional.
For the past five years, Zauhar has been conducting the Spartan Challenge at Rocori, a weightlifting and speed/agility competition. The event is similar to the Warrior Liftathon but it also incorporates three field events—a vertical test similar to a vertical jump, pro agility run similar to a shuttle run and an electrically timed 40-yard sprint.
"I was working out in our Brainerd program back in the days of power conditioning in grades 6-7-8 at Franklin Junior High," Zauhar said. "Then I worked through the high school program with Steve Nunnink and Chet Stevenson. We use (the MPPO) formula for all of our testing (at Rocori). (MPPO) was a driving factor into bringing this event to a head and to getting everyone here."
Zauhar is encouraging boys and girls, entering grades 10-12, from the lakes area to participate in the challenge. He's expecting at least 150 athletes and is hoping to attract many more.
"We're trying to gather as many kids as we can in one setting, pull from wherever around the state that we can," he said. "We want to recruit as many kids as we can to this event this year."
Zauhar said the challenge keeps all athletes on a level playing field. He said the size of the individual doesn't matter because the MPPO calculation keeps athletes competitive with each other.
"Nobody's going to come in and blow someone out of the water," Zauhar said. "They compete in six events—cafeteria style. They can do whatever event they want to do first, then go to the next thing they want to do.
"We have a massage therapist there who gives them muscle rubdowns after each event so they're fresh going to the next one. During the course of the morning, athletes can visit with vendors, see supplements and products, learn about nutrition, how to take better care of their bodies. It's a good educational piece for athletes as they're moving through the morning."
Zauhar said the goal is to give athletes an idea of how their training is progressing.
"Kids have been working out all summer long," he said. "This gives them a testing point to see how much progress has come in their 7-8 weeks of training going into their fall season.
"The other piece of this is it's not a competitive event with school against school or kid against kid. A lot of camaraderie gets built up because kids see each other throughout the school year in the sports they compete in. They get a chance talk, to cheer each other on, build up some good motivation for one another. That doesn't happen very often in an event with multiple schools which are not positively competitive. At some of those schools, they always have a winner. At this event, they can get behind someone and cheer them on to do their best whether they're in your school or not."
Zauhar said the MPPO formula gives athletes an understanding of how their body needs to perform to obtain optimal performance. Bench press measures upper-body strength, squats determine lower-body strength and power clean is a core body lift.
"It gives athletes a better idea of where their deficiencies might be," Zauhar said. (For example), if I'm trying to get to a certain MPPO, I need to squat this much or I need to clean this much. It gives kids a better goal to shoot for in their workout program.
"Going through (the Brainerd) system gave me a much better idea of putting muscle groups with weights and keeping the body balanced in strength in a good way. That's the educational piece a lot of kids don't get. I was fortunate to get that coming through."
Another benefit of the challenge is it presents athletes an opportunity to be seen by college coaches. Greg Medeck of Central Lakes College, Gary Fasching of St. John's, Terry Horan of Concordia College and Rob Hunt of Minnesota State University Moorhead were in attendance last year.
"We give kids two different color shirts," Zauhar said. "All the sophomores are one color so the coaches know not to talk them. We don't want to violate any NCAA rules. All the juniors and seniors have a different color shirt so the coaches know that's their target audience."