Don’t worry Mat, Ben beat me too (in his High School P.E. shorts).
Ok, technically he didn’t just beat me. He beat 125ish other guys, and me. Let me set the scene…
It’s the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Regionals, at Tony Blauer’s warehouse. SPEAR! This is the first time the Games implemented a qualification process.
Editorial note: In 2008, all you had to do was be fast enough to register online. I woke up eight seconds too late on the morning of registration, and missed my chance to go head-to-head with Matt “no, you can’t catch a clean in mid-air after the bar bounces really high” Murski.
Like in 2008, you could simply register for the event – no complaints about Open cheating back then – then go compete for the six spots our region had allotted for the Games. The event was programmed and run by Jeff Tincher from CF Fairfax. Jeff had locked up a qualifying spot already, because he’d finished 5th at the 2008 Games (one spot behind Pat Barber, three ahead of Matt Chan, and five ahead of Chris Spealler). Jeff ran the event “every second counts” style; meaning your times for the workouts were added together, and that was where you ranked overall. This made for a dramatic final workout, but blew if you sucked at one event. Like me, who started the weekend with a 1:00 deficit from a terrible 2k row.
Blair Morrison started the final event with a massive 2:00 lead over the field. The way the ten men in the final heat were lined up, from second to tenth, they had to watch the man in front of them start, and wait until it was their turn. Relatively disheartening, but pretty exciting to watch. We were watching the final from right in the middle of the group, in between the fifth and sixth place competitors. To our left was a young kid. I believe he was in the sixth place position. He was wearing High School P.E. shorts, and – I swear to Michael Jordan – beaten up running shoes that had grass stains on them from mowing the lawn. We later found out his name was Ben Smith.
On Sunday, as I was watching Ben secure his come-from-behind victory at the 2015 Games, by cruising through the parallette handstand push-ups unbroken. I had the exact same thought I did while we were standing right next to him in 2009 – is this guy even trying?
By the time it was Ben’s turn to start the couplet – 21-15-9 of: 95# Full Snatches (no, I won’t say effing “squat”), and Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups – Blair was already finished with his snatches, and on the pull-up bar. When his judge counted him in, the 18-year-old kid, in the grass tinted running shoes, grabbed the bar and moved effortlessly through his first twenty one reps. Unbroken. Needless to say, at this point we started to pay attention. He then jumped on the pull-up bar, and went unbroken again. Side note: this is a strategy I personally tried. I failed miserably. Then calmly back to the bar, unbroken again, and he held that pace all the way to the end.
When he was finished, we looked down the line, and everyone else was still struggling to get through their round of nine snatches or pull-ups. Ben’s time was 5:59, and he’d erased Blair’s two plus minute lead, to win the Regional. In Jeff Tincher’s article recapping the event, he says “What does the future hold for this young man?”
After watching Ben destroy the field, my buddy Tommy Flynn said to me, “We need to sign this kid up to a contract or something, and get him some new shoes.”
1) Snatch: 5X1@80%
2) Clean & Jerk: 5X1@80%
Snatches (full) 95/65#
Chest to Bar Pull-ups