Puyallup: Sports

Seeing firsthand what it takes to lift at a championship level

What good is a challenge or a personal ambition if you don’t see it through?

I start with that question because it’s one I’ve faced many times over these last five years.

Four months ago, I woke up one morning with a different feeling — it felt like life was rejuvenated as I awoke fully healthy for the first time in years.

“I’ve been hurt through my career, so I want to make my (final) year count — my goal is to get to help Rogers (High) get to the playoffs during my time,” prep baseball player Troy Johnston told me about his senior-year goals.

That’s the essence of an athlete — whether they are future, current or past ones, it always comes back to the goals him/her establishes for themselves.

“I never wanted to let anything to prevent me from wrestling,” former Puyallup High wrestler Whitney Conder said in a phone interview last week.

Overcoming roadblocks is the essence of an athlete.

As any competitor would contest, being put on the shelf for several years is too long — especially in a career field where each week is spent discussing other athletes being active. It’s hard to relate without experience, you know.

So here it was April, and I was healthy for the first time in years. For some reason at this time, I created this one insane goal that four months would be enough to get myself ready enough to be prepared for a workout with the Cascade Christian High football team.

“I’ll open the weight room at 6 a.m. and (many) of the guys will be here ready to work,” Cascade Christian defensive coordinator Devin Snyder said. “It’s the goal to come in here and work for a championship … that’s the mindset our guys buy into.”

Last Wednesday, after months of work, was my chance to spend a day lifting with Cascade Christian football.

“We started our workouts back in January — right now is just spending time with the family,” Peyton Berry said. “We’re coming in here working to reclaim the title.”

The demons of our past tend to catch up with us when we need it least.

The morning started out with me showing up to an empty Cascade Christian parking lot at 6:30 a.m., thinking the experience was going to be one of those Cougar morning workouts Snyder always talked about. But Snyder was kind to Cascade Christian’s players and moved the time to the evening.

After a brief eight-mile walk downtown followed by the usual workflow for a summer weekday, it was back at Cascade Christian for this chance to see firsthand what it takes to win a state title.

“You can’t argue with the results,” lineman Michael Parnell said. “I went from benching 95 pounds as a freshman, and now I’m benching 255.”

I was paired with senior lineman Jared Flattum, who was to treat me like an incoming freshman — one who’s new to lifting.

I wasn’t, but after spending some time working with Flattum, it felt like a restart.

“Everything I try to work for is to help on the football field,” Flattum said. “(The vertical press) helps with the shoulder that you need to hit harder when you tackle … everything has a purpose.”

“We try to simulate here what it’s like to play in a game,” Snyder said. “With more reps on lower, you can simulate that burst players have at the beginning of games, and then we add weight and lower the reps … it teaches to them to push themselves.”

So that thing about bad luck — this was the second act.

As I went through my first set of vertical presses at 135 pounds, a set that was easy five years ago made me feel drained now. Then, after attempting more weight, I felt a slight pull in my left shoulder.

That ended my hands-on experience before I could sustain another injury, while Flattum extended his reps into the 200-plus pound range, emphatically embarrassing my attempts.

“Guys like Jared and Kyle (Milton) have put in a lot of work here,” Snyder said. “They’re guys who will be here in the mornings ready to work … and then put in extra time after practices. The younger guys coming in see that’s what it takes and buy into our philosophy.”

Having the chance to experience this level of a workout, even as an observer, is a rare chance to gain a deeper understanding about a team’s philosophy.

After an hour of focused workouts, my time concluded with Cascade Christian.

“When you see the results, it makes it easier to buy in,” Parnell concluded.

It’s easy to indeed buy in when there’s positive results.