Beaufort's C.J. Cummings talks appearance on CBS Evening News, Olympic Trials
Beaufort High School principal Corey Murphy returned to work on Monday to find an interesting Post-It Note on his desk.
"It said, 'CBS called,' " Murphy said. "They wanted to come and see C.J."
It's 15-year-old weightlifting phenom C.J. Cummings that CBS wanted to see for an "On the Road" segment with correspondent Steve Hartman to air during Friday's edition of the "CBS Evening News."
"I called the producer," Murphy said. "They wanted to capture the day in the life of an Olympic hopeful. They hear a lot about C.J., he's an incredible kid. They want to know, 'How does he go about his day?' "
Cummings' mother, Savasah, said she'd known for some time the network was interested in doing a piece on C.J., who finished 2015 as the No. 1-ranked youth lifter in the 69-kilogram weight class by the International Weightlifting Federation.
" 'Wow' was my first reaction," Savasah Cummings said. "I'm excited for C.J. I think its great."
Producers emailed a few weeks ago but were forced to postpone the filming.
"I had forgotten about it," Savasah Cummings said. "They called a few days ago and let us know they were coming (this week).
Hartman and a crew started work Monday, filming and interviewing C.J. Cummings, older brother Omar Cummings and coach Ray Jones at CrossFit Beaufort, where the boys train.
They returned for another session on Tuesday.
Jones said he spoke with Hartman and crew for about three hours before following C.J. Cummings to his home for some material to be shot there. The Team Beaufort coach said they asked a lot of the usual questions.
"Why is C.J. able to do the things he does?" Jones said. "Why is Beaufort producing all these successful weightlifters? What is a snatch? What is a clean and jerk? And all the technical things involved with the lifts.
"And of course, what are the hopes and plans for C.J. in the future?"
Hartman left town Tuesday, but a crew will follow C.J. Cummings throughout his school day Wednesday at Beaufort High School.
"When I told him they were coming to his school," Savasah Cummings said, "he said, 'Why?' He doesn't like to attract a whole bunch of attention."
Savasah Cummings, who teaches at Lady's Island Middle School, said it will be impossible not to think about how the filming is going Wednesday while she's at work.
But she doesn't doubt C.J. will simply shake it off.
"He doesn't get excited about it, and I think that's part of how he handles things," Savasah Cummings said. "He tries not to get into it. I guess that helps him stay sane. I think that keeps him in the right mindset.
"It can throw you off or make you negative, and I think that's why he stays away from it and doesn't read things about himself. That's how he keeps himself on a level field."
Murphy, who was teaching at Columbia's Eau Claire High School when future NBA standout Jermaine O'Neal was a senior, said he's been around high-level athletes before, but they weren't like C.J. Cummings.
"I don't think I've ever seen a kid with so much ability and potential in such a small and humble package," Murphy said.
Murphy said he thinks it may have been a surprise to the CBS crew just how normal C.J. Cummings is.
"When you talk to him, it's like nothing is going on," Murphy said. "He eats junk food. It's hard to find something that amazes him. He's just a typical teenager. He just takes it all in.
"It's funny, he doesn't roll with an athletic group. In fact, you never know who you'll see him with. He tries not to be the center of attention."
When C.J. Cummings returns to school after a competition, Murphy said you wouldn't even know how he fared.
"You have to find him and then ask him, 'How did it go?' " Murphy said. " 'Oh, I won,' he might say, but he's not going to spend 10 minutes going over it."
Jones said he understands that all the work the CBS crew has done over the course of the week will be boiled down to just a couple minutes, at most, on the air on Friday.
Even so, he's excited to be able to share a little about C.J. Cummings and his sport of choice.
"It's still cool to be able to hopefully enlighten the general public about Olympic weightlifting," Jones said.
Murphy knows what the CBS audience will learn about C.J. Cummings.
"He's just a neat kid," Murphy said, "and I think all of his classmates will say the same."