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    Garage Strength Blog

    Lucky Number 13

    Lucky Number 13

     The following is a guest post from Monique Riddick. Mo is the head throws coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

    As a student at Montclair University Monique won Three Division III NCAA National Championships in Shot Put. She transferred to Indiana University and won the Big Ten championships and became NCAA Two Time Division I All –American in Shot Put. 

     For many people, the number 13 is synonymous with luck. Good, or bad, that number holds weight for many people. For myself, that number is the place I finished at the 2016 Olympic Trials for Track and Field in the Women's Shot Put. That number was just one spot away from allowing me into the Olympic finals and a chance to try and make the Olympic team.

    So now that I've caught your attention with an awesome title and first paragraph let me introduce myself. My name is Monique Riddick, some of you know or know of me, many don't, and most could careless about who I am. I decided to write this article (which is my personal story) not as a sob story, but to give the public an idea of what it's like to be 13th best in your country, in one specific event, in a sport that receives very little press unless it's the Olympic year.For many people, the number 13 is synonymous with luck. Good, or bad, that number holds weight for many people. For myself, that number is the place I finished at the 2016 Olympic Trials for Track and Field in the Women's Shot Put. That number was just one spot away from allowing me into the Olympic finals and a chance to try and make the Olympic team.

    Most people wonder what it’s like to be 13th best in your country in a sport; really its just questions being asked about how much money you are making and who is sponsoring and endorsing you. Well, at 13th in the country, there is no line waiting to sign you to a big shoe contract, no big time coach wanting to work with you, no access to a state of the art training facility, or top notch medical staff. Instead, there is a long road ahead of trying to get your training in, your rehab done, traveling to those big name meets to get a big mark, all awhile working a full time job, just to get a chance to be the absolute best in your sport and represent your country in the Olympics Games. Now my journey isn't unlike most, but I believe the public only sees the “struggle” that is depicted as the down trotted athlete, fighting for their biggest break, to only then “make it big time” in their sport. I would like to be one of the very few, to be extremely transparent and let the public know, that many of us never really “make it big”, instead, we sometimes come up short, or in my case 13th place.

    Let me just give you a brief overview of my athletic accomplishments that led me up to the point of realizing I wanted to chase the Olympic Dream. In my first two years of college at small Division 3 University located in New Jersey (Montclair State University for anyone interested or wondering), I captured Three NCAA National Championships in the Women's Shot Put throw; two indoor titles and one outdoor title. With the permission of my head coach, I decided to transfer out to a larger university, preferably a Division 1 University, after an extremely successful two years. The university I choose was Indiana University, and while there I was able to go back to NCAA National Championship for both indoor and outdoor and became a Big Ten Conference Champion. At the end of my college throwing career, my furthest throw ever while in college was 16.66 meters, or for those that don't understand the metric system, 54ft 9in. It wasn't a massive throw to attract an agent to represent me or get a contract by a shoe company, but it was far enough to keep up with the best in the nation.

    Now here is where the true journey begins as a post collegiate Olympic sport athlete! Because coming out of college I was not considered one of the top prospects for my sport and that meant some of the resources that are given to those already in the Top 10 would not be at my disposal. Resources such as training and living at the Olympic Training Center or continuing my training at my University with a small part time job to pay the bills, a training staff on hand with medical help/medical insurance, having an agent to help get those big time shoe company contracts and into what us athletes call “money meets” to win prize money. Instead, in order to pursue this goal/dream of mine, I had to move back home to be with my parents in order to be able to afford the cost of training, as well as just living with the basic necessities one needs in life.

    The moment I arrived home, within a month I got a full time job, to just afford some of the basic needs in life, such as gas, car insurance, health insurance, and other things the average person needed, which did not include the needs to be a “professional” athlete. Once the job portion of this journey was taken care of, I needed a coach to help out with my training. Now, most people don’t know that, if you don’t stay at your school to continue to train with your college coach for the Olympics, you will have to pay a coach to take you on as their athlete. Some times those coaches will not only ask for you to pay them to coach you, but if you do by any chance, win some prize money, will ask for a small “cut” of prize money. I was lucky enough to be able to reach out to a semi local college coach who had recruited me as a senior in high school, to take me on as a post collegiate thrower. Coach Abraham Flores, of Monmouth University gladly took me on as his athlete and under his wing as a coach in training, in exchange for my time as a volunteer for his team, and to help out at any of the local meets they went too.

    In this past year and a half leading up to the Olympics, a very typical day for me looked like this; waking up at 5:30am, working from 6am-2pm, driving almost an hour to practice with Coach Flores from 3pm to 5pm, driving back up an hour in order to get to the gym by 6pm to lift, getting home by 7:30pm(or even 8pm) in order to prep for the next day or two, and then finally going to sleep by 10:30pm. In addition, I very rarely took days off or vacations in order to save the time for the meets I wanted to participate in and all of my money was being saved for equipment, meets, travel, and hotels. Most of the Top 10 athletes in my sport, DO work part time jobs in order to help out with their bills and training fees along with some of the doctor fees. But a large majority is taken care of by USA Track and Field grants, shoe company contracts, and sponsorship/endorsement deals. The average salary of a Top 10, REALLY and HONESTLY, the Top 5 Professional Track and Field runner is, and this is just a guesstimate I am making, around $45,000 to $60,000. As a field event-er, you're looking at the average of $25,000 to $35,000? Now of course there are always others that are making way more than the average, and are just “raking” in the big bucks. But just let that sink in for a minute, just one spot out of the Top 10 of the USA, misses out on some of those perks and rewards. Even some of the Top 10, namely places 6 through 10 don't get nearly what the Top 5 get. But for myself, and many of us outside of the Top 10, we need to work in order to survive and live, not to only train. For example, medical insurance, if I don’t have a full time job with medical benefits, I will not be covered by medical insurance, which ultimately means my rehab and making sure my body is ready to go for my meets doesn’t happen.

    In the last 9 months leading up to the Olympic Trials, you could say I caught a “break” when it came to my training and being able to afford all of my expenses. A guy by the name of Dane Miller who I had met twice and who happens to be the owner and founder of Garage Strength and EarthFed Muscle, decided to sponsor me after seeing me throw at one of the small meets he held at his facility. In my sponsorship deal I received protein and all EarthFed Muscle related products, (I know really raking in the big bucks). Along with Dane giving me my break, Dick’s Sporting Goods decided to give Olympic Sport athletes right outside of the Top 10 a break as well. They rolled out a pilot program to hire and finically help some of the up and coming Olympic hopefuls, such as myself, to have the best chance possible to make the team. Luckily I was chosen to be apart of this program to relieve some of the stresses of being a non Top 10 athlete deal with. Now, even though this program was going to be a HUGE help for me, I still took a 200 dollar pay cut from my previous job and lost medical insurance, which is just something many of us athletes go through. But it was well worth it, to be able to finally have a chance to level the playing field, in my mind, with the Top 10.

                Now here’s where everyone who is probably reading this, is expecting the sappy, feel good ending to my personal story, as well as similar stories of being top in your country for a sport. Well most of our stories don’t end with happiness; many of our stories end with heartache and unanswered questions. At the Olympic Trials, the day I had been waiting and working towards for 4 years, ending with complete heartache, tears, and feelings of being a failure. Let me elaborate on how all these feelings and things came about. The day of the Women’s Shot Put Prelims, both my parents flew out from New Jersey to watch me compete, and this was extremely special for me because my father had not flown in 18 years, let alone watch me compete in my post collegiate career. I, along with the rest of the Top 24 in the country, was given 3 throws to try and move on to the Finals and ultimately fight for the Top 3 spots to represent our country. After the first two throws, I was sitting in the 12th position, the absolute last slot to be taken to the finals. And, in a blink of an eye, as I wanted back into the tunnel to gather my gear to now prep for the final, I heard a loud roar of cheers. In that exact moment, I knew I had been bumped out of the final. I was pushed from 12th place to 13th place. Everything I had worked for and strived for felt like was in vain; was all for 13th place.

                My story and article may seem as some sob story but it is not meant to be a sob story, in fact I am extremely proud of what I've accomplished given the resources at my disposal. This article, my story, is meant to give you an idea of what it’s like to be 13th in your country for a sport; to paint a picture, of what it’s like for the rest of the elite athletes in the track and field world that straddle the fence of being right outside of the Top 10. Now, I’m not saying the Top 10 best athletes don't have their struggles or aren't having a hard time like the rest of us, but their path to continue and stay in the Top 10 is much easier than those just right outside. For most of us, the Top 15, the Top 20, we compete and keep trying because we love the sport and a good challenge. We thrive on being the underdogs, vying for that coveted spot in the Top 10 and knocking out one or even two of the Top 10.

                For many people, the number 13, is just that; a number. For myself, the number 13 is a culmination of 4 years of all my hard work. It represents long work days, frustrating training days, sleep deprived weeks, making a salary under most people my age, and still succeeding despite all those factors. I am 13th in my country for Women's Shot Put, and I could not be happier or prouder of that number.

     

    Recap of the 2016 American Open

    Recap of the 2016 American Open
    The Garage Strength Weightlifting went down to Orlando with a few goals in mind. We wanted to get our junior lifters in a strong position on the first ranking for the Junior World team.  We also wanted to get a bunch of rookie lifters to feel comfortable on the national stage. We accomplished just about every goal we had set out to do.  I am extremely proud of our results and will go lifter by lifter.  I will also rant about the horrible officiating I witnessed that could place a serious damper on our sport if it is not dealt with properly.  

    Read more

    What To Do When You Fail ...

    What To Do When You Fail ...

    When You Fail…

    Have a prepared list of questions. Checkdown each option and see what happened to cause a failed lift.
    1. Did you miss because of a technical error or mental error?

    2. Were you focused prior to the rep?

    3. Were you focused on hitting positions or just blasting through the lift?

    Read more

    Youth Worlds in Malaysia with Dane Miller

    Youth Worlds in Malaysia with Dane Miller

    The first half of this trip has been incredible. I've learned so much from being around these elite athletes and top notch coaches. Our travel was less than ideal, our first and second nights were spent in an airport and in an airplane. We arrived with serious jet lag and yet these athletes made the best of their training early on in the trip to assure success.  

    Garage Strength's own, Hayley Reichardt competed the first day with another athlete from California, Chloe Tacata. Chloe posted a PR total and looked great for being on the international stage the first time.  Hayley recovered well from our brutal travel. She made sure she slept at the right times and took proper supplementation to aid with sleep and recovery to hopefully get her in good enough mindset to medal. And that's exactly what she did. 

    Hayley went out, made her first two attempts and narrowly missed her third snatch on a press out. Heading into the clean and jerk portion of the competition, we were in a tight battle with the Turks and the Indians. Hayley hit her first clean and jerk, then missed her second attempt. As we sat in a holding pattern waiting for her third attempt, I told her she MUST hit her final lift to win the bronze medal. She looked as though she was going to throw up, and of course I myself felt as though I was going to black out and throw up as well!!! So what did she do? She went out and hit her third lift to become the FIRST American woman to ever medal at a youth world championship. The FIRST !!! 

    Of course I am incredibly proud of Hayley bringing home a medal. But the thing that makes me most happy is that after the competition, Hayley informed me that she didn't believe she could make the last clean and jerk. Part of me thinks she made it because I told her I KNEW she would make the lift, but in reality Hayley turned over the hardest leaf in all of athletics. She silenced her mind and let her body do the work. She conquered negative thoughts and crushed the weight! This is a life lesson she can hold with her, not just for the rest of her athletic career but also for the rest of her life. 

    We had a great travel day on Friday, site seeing the island of Penang and experiencing their culture by eating some of the best ethnic food in the world. Then came Saturday. Will Cohen competed well, Juliette Chang Fane had an incredible first international competition and finally there was CJ Cummings. The best male American lifter. CJ went out and broke some world records, won the World title and became the youngest and lightest American man to ever clean and jerk 182 kilos.

    We have three days left of competition, I can't wait to continue to learn from these studs!!!

    Under-25 Nationals and University Championships

    Under-25 Nationals and University Championships

    Garage Strength Weightlifting sent four lifters to the Inaugural Under-25 Nationals and University Championships in New Orleans, Louisiana. Three of those lifters won national titles. Jordan Wissinger, won the under-25 title in the 69kilo category. DJ Shuttleworth won the under-25 title in the 94 kilo category, and Jules Riotto won the 75 kilo class for the women in both under-25 and university nationals competitions. Tanner Reichardt competed in the 77 kilogram men's class, but he did not post a total. 

    Jordan Wissinger earned a gold medal in the total for under-25 championships. He earned a bronze for total in the University category. Here is Jordan's best snatch:

     

    DJ missed his first two lifts at 140k and then came back with make on his third attempt. He made his first two clean and jerks at 170 and 175 and he made a big jump to 190 and missed the jerk. A little shaky performance from everyone's favorite Garage Strength's, but we are glad he was able to pull his act together to bring home the championship.

    Jules Riotto went 5/6 and lifted like the total stud that she is. She earned 5 gold medals and one silver. She tied for the best clean and jerk in Universities, but earned a silver by the standard body weight tie breaker.

    Tanner missed all three of his snatch attempts. He decided to forgo his remaining attempts in clean and jerk after a missed opener. More to come from Tanner in the future.