Alex Silon was an 8-year-old when he first met Ray Jones on a doctor's recommendation.
The meeting started with a need to stretch but quickly moved to lifting weights, and Silon, a rising junior at Beaufort High School, has been lifting since. His meeting with Jones, coach of Team Beaufort weightlifting and Beaufort High's strength coach, led to five days a week in the weight room at Beaufort Middle School.
The latest payoff to Silon's long line of work came at the end of July, when he took a gold medal for his age and weight class at the AAU Junior Olympics weightlifting competition in New Orleans, La. Silon set AAU national records in the snatch, lifting 255 pounds, and in total weight of his snatch lift and clean and jerk.
Silon, 16, said he didn't know he was approaching a record until a public address announcer mentioned the possibility.
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"I knew I was probably going to win, but I didn't know I was going to set any records until I got to my second attempt and the guy on the announcement said, 'Oh, if he goes up a couple more kilos, he can beat the record,'" Silon said. "Coach was like, 'We can go for it.'"
Silon and 11-year-old C.J. Cummings helped Team Beaufort to another overall boys team title in the national competition. Since 2001, Team Beaufort has won the overall boys title each year but one.
Cummings, competing in the 11-and-under division, lifted 57 kilograms in the snatch lift and 75 kilograms in the clean and jerk to set national records. Cummings broke his own records set a month before at the USA Weightlifting School-Age Nationals in Atlanta.
At that meet, Cummings won despite competing against 12- and 13-year-olds, the youngest age division at the meet.
"C.J. is so young, he doesn't have a clue how good he can possibly be," Jones said. "It's actually scary to think the things he's already doing as an 11-year-old."
Thirteen lifters from Team Beaufort traveled to New Orleans, where in addition to lifting, competitors were able to attend outside events and see places like the Louisiana Superdome.
Team Beaufort boasted seven gold medalists, four silver medalists and a pair of bronze medals. The meet concluded a big summer for the team. The focus now shifts for most to football, Jones said.
Cummings, a tailback on the Lady's Island Middle School football team, said lifting with Jones helped on the field.
"I'm a running back, so it gives me more power and stuff like that," Cummings said.
The team's success has spawned offers to participate in other events. Cummings and Jones were invited to participate in the USA Weightlifting Summer Developmental Camp, held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Silon will have his choice of competing on two select teams and expects to participate in the Pan American weightlifting championships for a second consecutive year.
That meet will be in October. Silon said he will otherwise begin preparing for another baseball season. He plays third base for the Eagles.
In the long run, he thinks his future might be on the diamond.
"I love this sport, because I've been doing it since 8 years old and want to keep doing it, but baseball is what I love," he said.
2011 AAU JUNIOR OLYMPICS WEIGHTLIFTING CHAMPIONSHIPS
July 28-30; New Orleans, La.
Team Beaufort results
Gold medalists (Name, weight class, age group): Abby Silon, 58-kg, 14-15; Alex Silon, 85-kg, 16-17; Andrew Jezewski, 77-kg, 14-15; C.J. Cummings 44-kg, 11-and-under; Dylan Williams, 62-kg, 11-and-under; Michael Mattis, 56-kg, 18-19; Tucker DeLoach, 56-kg, 11-and-under
Silver medalists (Name, weight class, age group): Casey Simmons, 44-kg, 11-and-under; Howard Graham, 94-kg, 16-17; Molly Smith, 35-kg, 11-and-under; Omar Cummings, 56-kg, 12-13
Bronze medalists (Name, weight class, age group): Nate Gurley, 39-kg, 12-13; Malcolm Simmons, 77-kg, 14-15