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Bayside Secondary School first to offer Olympic-style weightlifting team

By Tyler Renaud  [1]

BELLEVILLE – Bayside Secondary School [2] is breaking ground as the first high school in Ontario to set up an official Olympic-style weightlifting team.

Kent Allin is the coach of the team and he shared with QNet News the inspiration behind it.

“Being a former Bayside student I try to be up here as much as possible and I always wanted the competitive end of sports but never had a sport to play. (Creating) this allowed me to compete with the kids,” Allin said.

The weightlifting club’s popularity caught the coach by surprise. So far nine kids have competed as part of the team.

“I did not expect this kind of draw. I actually lucked out – I stole a core group of wrestlers. So I had a core group of Grade 11 boys and we started to work out at lunch,” Allin said.

“At first I would have to grab them by the hand” to get them in the gym. “Then they started feeling the benefits of it. Not only feeling a bit better, but on the mat they started to get stronger – and I had them hooked on that.”

Like many coaches, Allin was never satisfied with his team.

“Then I knew I needed girls (on the team), so I really hit the pavement … One of the girls had just had a series of concussions from rugby. She has been informed by her doctors to keep away from contact sports, but I knew she was competitive,” said Allin. “So I grabbed her as my cornerstone of girls and I just started nitpicking friends around her and telling them, ‘I want you to be a part of it, but I also want you to bring a friend.’ Having another person motivates you.”

Brooke-Lyn Roth, 17, did not participate in sports at Bayside until she joined Allin’s weightlifting team. She said she was unsure about the sport initially.

“It was scary … because I was a bit intimidated to come into the gym at first. I thought that the guys that work out could be a bit immature at times. But I’m friends with them now and they really motivate you,” Roth said.

Even though the team is young, Allin has it enjoying success already.

“We compete predominantly against weightlifting clubs from all over Ontario. Our last big competition was Mississauga and we competed in the provincial juniors. It was amazing! We were the only high-school team and we tied for the top numbers. We also had the second most lifters on our team – the only club to have more lifters than us was the Toronto Olympic Lifting Association [3] team,” he said. “We ended up placing second overall, which is phenomenal considering four of the coaches from other teams were former Olympians. These kids got to meet future Pan American lifters and be on the podium with them.”

While Allin clearly relishes the achievements, he says that winning competitions is not the point of the team.

“My athletes aren’t your typical weight-room junkies. They’re not your stereotype of meatheads up in the weight room. They’re just people looking to get active and get out and gain some confidence. The big driving force for me hasn’t been the weight [gains]; it’s been the kids’ shoulders and chest coming up. I always preach, ‘Keep you chin up, keep your head up!’ This sport has been unbelievable for that.”

The kids echo the sentiments of their coach. All the members who spoke to QNet News credited the team for a confidence boost. The boys said that the team has made them more confident with girls.

Corbyn Walker, 17, was completely new to lifting when he joined the team. Now he can lift up to his body weight (145 pounds) in both of his competition lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk.

The team “is a good way to push each other and better yourself. Everybody here wants to better,” Walker said. “You might tell yourself, ‘That’s enough,’ but someone else will say, ‘You can do better.’ ”

Clinton Hiltz, a 17-year-old rugby player turned lifter, said the environment created by the team was the key to his improvement.

“The team does provide a better atmosphere – you can hang out, have fun and enjoy (lifting) more,” Hiltz said. “We push each other to do better. Also, we are like a support team. If someone’s having a tough time we can joke around with them and try and pick each other up.”

Grooming young people to be respectful, well-rounded individuals is what makes all this worthwhile, Allin said.

“You see kids from music or art or whatever all coming together to push themselves and flourishing in an area where they never would have flourished before. That has been the absolute success – not the provincial recognition.

“I even have feedback from parents saying, ‘I can’t believe my kids – they seem to be a different person. They seem to have more respect, they seem to using their time more effectively, they seem to be walking with more posture and confidence.’ ”

Brooke-Lyn Roth said she is very pleased with what she’s gained since she joined the team.

“It was crazy the way my body changed and the confidence I gained – it was just a really good outcome,” said Roth.

Allin is pushing to do more for Bayside students. The school is allowing him to offer a strength and conditioning fitness class next year, which would be dedicated to educating young people how to train and eat for performance.

“I’m just scratching the surface of something that I think could get a lot bigger,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t want it to get too big that I can’t have that one-on-one interaction with kids. I don’t want it to be more than that positive force.

“I don’t expect Olympic athletes or anything like that. I just want the kids to raise their chins up and gain some confidence somewhere outside of school. We lose the fact that school is more than books. It’s the halls, it’s the friends, it’s the teams and it’s the extracurriculars.”