HV trio exels in national weightlifting event

By Marvin Birchfield

   It's great when you're recognized for an accomplishment inside the community, but it's even more spectacular when you achieve that status nationally.
   Three Happy Valley students recently went to compete in a weightlifting event, and they came away with national rankings in the overall scores in the high school division.
   "We went up to the USAP Virginia open, which was February 28, and they entered the high school division," said Happy Valley weightlifting coach Alex Campbell. "We had Brandon Whitehead in the 132 weight class, Michael Everhardt in the 148s, and Lance Whitehead in the 148s.
   Just like in high school wrestling, the competition is divided into weight classes, where all three athletes excelled in their competition in the 16-17 year-old class.
   "I'm pretty proud of them. They're seniors and have been out all four years, but it's not a sanction sport by the TSSAA, and they do it on their own," said Campbell. "They did it mostly for football, but they liked it so much they wanted to go compete for that."
   The remarkable thing about all three of these guys are the fact none of them have big huge bodies, but each one of them are packed with a lot of strength and heart.
   "These are the hardest working kids I have ever been around," said Campbell. "This is not a sport, so they worked out on their on and I'm real proud of them.
   "Most of them had no business being on the football field. They were too small and too slow, but they didn't let that discourage them. They worked hard and every one of them started this year, and even made all-conference, so it was only through hard work that they improved themselves."
   Everhardt 12th overall in the nation and Lance Whitehead 15th in the 148 division.
   "It was real hard with us being the smallest dudes with both Brandon and Lance," said Everhardt. "We were going out there and pushing each other real hard. Everyone else was bigger and stronger."
   After getting no playing time at the end of their sophomore careers, the trio decided to dedicate themselves to working hard and making things possible.
   "We started getting real hard core in weightlifting at the end of our sophomore year -- we didn't play very much," said Everhardt. "Then the coaches started noticing that we were benching more than the line, and started swatting more than them, so they started saying, 'Let's put them at strong safety or at linebacker.'"
   After leaving Happy Valley, Everhardt has plans of getting a degree in teaching, where he can maybe come back to his alma mater and be a part of the Carter County community.
   "I'd like to come back and be a math teacher. I think it would be a lot of fun," said Everhardt. "
   Brandon and Lance Whitehead are fraternal twins who have progressed throughout their Warrior career.
   After a serious back injury in a game against Elizabethton, it appeared that Lance's career at football might be over.
   "I got my back broke against Elizabethton my junior year, and I thought I'd never get to play, but they moved me to defensive end this year because I got a lot stronger," said Lance.
   Amazingly he recovered from it to become nationally ranked in his weight lifting class.
   "I placed 15th in the nation on my swats at 340 pounds, and on my bench press I lifted 235 pounds, which I could have done better, but it was still good enough for fourth in the nation, said Lance. "I never thought I would say I'd be ranked in the nation at anything, but I'm really proud of me, Michael and Brandon for all the effort and hard work we put into it."
   The strength training definitely enhanced all of their careers, as Happy Valley finished with only two losses on the season, and a runner-up finish in the Watauga Conference.
   "There's more people out there lifting and I think it helped out our team this year -- we finished with a 9-2 record and beat all our rivals," said Lance. "I'd like to think weightlifting had a lot to do with it. Brandon, Michael and I were all smaller than everyone. We just kept on lifting and by our junior and senior years we were getting to play. Nobody thought we'd amount to anything."
   Brandon Whitehead is another success story in the fact that he's the smallest one of the Whitehead brothers.
   Despite his size, Brandon has plenty of strength, which landed him a third-place overall performance in the bench, dead-lift and swat combined in the 132-pound class.
   "Compared to last year's results in the APL overall, I placed in bench swat and dead-lift fourth in the nation, and my total overall was third," said Brandon. "My swat was 330, my bench was 190, and my dead-lift was 370.
   "I didn't do as well as I could on my bench and dead-lift, but I was pleased with what I got. The swat was a personal record for me."
   Brandon says that all three of them have more heart and dedication than anyone else around, and that's why they have been able to achieve the level of success.
   "I'm not trying to brag on myself, but we've always had more heart than a lot of people, and I just think we've been working harder each year and getting stronger and stronger," he said. "It's been a real pleasure in just working out with friends and having good coaches, because if it wasn't for the coaches then we wouldn't know what we were doing."
   Brandon looks to come back to Happy Valley sometime and become a part of the weight-lifting program in teaching kids like himself how hard work pays off.
   "I'm planning on going to Northeast State and get my core classes, and then on to ETSU, where I'll major in education and be a math teacher and hopefully come back up here and coach this weight-lifting team," said Brandon.
   One of Brandon's biggest motivations, which is what he lives by, is the words his coach has posted upon the chalkboard in the weight room.
   "This gym is all I have, it's all I am, and I'll kill myself if I have to," said Brandon, reciting the chalkboard words. "That's inspiration there. I just read them in my head and it gets me going."
   Campbell would like to acknowledge all the help from principal Mike Raider and Mark Norman in assuring that the students make the trip to Charlottesville, Va.
   If not for them and the support of the school with all the fund raising, then the event in which the students competed might have not been possible.
   "It cost $250 to go up there, and they saved up money on their own, but the school helped out with some," said Campbell. "Both Mr. Raider and Mr. Norman helped out with money so these kids would get a chance to go up there and compete."