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Beaufort's CJ Cummings heads to Washington with Peru on his mind

Beaufort's C.J. Cummings sits for a portrait at the Beaufort Middle School weight room on December 10, 2014.  Cummings will travel to compete in the American Open. The 14-year-old this year set an American record for his 62-kg weight class. He now competes at 69 kg.
Beaufort's C.J. Cummings sits for a portrait at the Beaufort Middle School weight room on December 10, 2014. Cummings will travel to compete in the American Open. The 14-year-old this year set an American record for his 62-kg weight class. He now competes at 69 kg. Theophil Syslo

Yes, this weekend's American Open Championships give C.J. Cummings another opportunity to showcase his ability against some of the best weightlifters in the country.

But for a 14-year-old Beaufort resident who has never been to our nation's capital, it's also a chance to tour Washington, D.C.

"So after we're done, I'm just going to go see the town," Cummings said.

The USA Weightlifting event will give Cummings a chance to measure his growth in his new 69-kilogram class. He set the Men's Open record for the 62-kilogram class with a clean and jerk of 153 kilograms in July at the USA Weightlifting National Championships in Salt Lake City.

Cummings will lift Saturday at 1:30 p.m. His goals are modest -- 125-kilogram snatch and 160-kilogram clean and jerk.

He is not yet at the top of his new class. That distinction goes to 30-year-old Caleb Williams, who set an American record in his weight class with a 174-kilogram clean and jerk at the same meet Cummings grabbed his record.

So the bar is set, but Cummings is in no rush to clear it. And there won't be any sort of showdown this weekend with Williams, who won't be lifting.

Cummings is plodding along to the International Weightlifting Federation Youth World Championships in Peru next April. His target numbers at the American Open would give him a chance to medal in Peru, said Cummings' coach, Ray Jones.

Jones thinks a 285 combined snatch and clean and jerk could flirt with gold.

"He has a legitimate shot to medal," Jones said. "That would be the step."

Cummings has been working on his routine. He spent varying times over the bar, often slipping into extended periods of overthinking.

Now he follows a set of steps to ensure consistency.

"I'm visualizing, where I don't stay over the bar as much as I used to," Cummings said.

The learning process has included dealing with extra attention. He made the media rounds after his record-setting performance in July, including a call to a Cleveland sports talk show.

Much of the speculation now gravitates to Cummings' prospects for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Jones wants Cummings to enjoy lofty goals but said 2020, when Cummings is 20, might be a better target.

He said Cummings is still working on developing core strength, his nutrition -- little things to help him become more well-rounded.

"In 2020, he's your man," Jones said. "He's the guy you're looking at to say 'Hey, he has a shot to do really well,'" Jones said. "For someone just turning 16 years old, I don't know how fair that is."

Follow assistant sports editor Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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