By Bill Foley
Sam Sampson was surprised when he was called to the medal podium at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta.
The 10-year-old Butte boy figured he was the recipient of a medal for his form while competing at the 2017 USA Weightlifting Youth National Championships, which concluded Saturday. (Results)
Instead, he took home medals for placing second in the clean and jerk and third overall in the 39 kilogram 11U class.
“My mom told me I had to go to the podium to get a medal,” Sampson said Wednesday before a workout with fellow Butte Barbell Club members at Copper City CrossFit. “I thought it was for technical.”
It turns out, the U13 division was split in half so Sampson was only competing against boys who were actually in his age group. That is a fact that Sampson didn’t know until after he lifted.
“I’m glad they split it up,” he said.
Sampson’s medals were the highlight of the championships in which 11 members of the Butte Barbell Club made the trip to compete. Each athlete qualified for the Youth National Championships during competitions this spring in Butte and Bozeman.
Other Butte youth athletes who qualified for nationals were Beth Sampson, Mia Spencer, Darby Harrington, Haley Carver, Spencer Callahan, Cohen Andrews, Brayden Giop, Sam Sampson, Trey Driscoll, Riley Gelling and Peyton Smith.
Smith, though, didn’t compete because of what coach Anthony Fields called a “registration snafu.”
Sam Sampson, the youngest of four children of Scott and Shannon Sampson, was the lone Butte medal winner at the event.
In the clean and jerk, where the barbell is lifted above the head, Sampson lifted 35 kilograms, or about his weight of 80 pounds. He lifted 26 kilograms on the snatch for a total of 81 kilograms.
Sampson said a key to his success was to get past the fact that he was lifting in front of a large crowd.
“There was a ton of people there,” he said. “But I just kind of blurred it out.”
Sampson, who competes in football, basketball and track, started lifting about three years ago.
“They put on a lifting camp to get more kids into it,” Sampson said of Copper City Crossfit. “I did the camp and really liked it.”
Now, Sampson, who is entering the fifth grade at Whittier in the fall, lifts with the Butte Barbell Club two or three days a week. He also participates in a CrossFit workout three days a week.
He said those workouts help him in others sports.
Sampson played quarterback, running back, receiver, linebacker, cornerback, safety and defensive end for the McQueen Athletic Club Colts. Along with Jason Johns, Trey McCarthy and Burke McGruder, Sampson ran a leg for the 11-12 championship team in the 400-meter relay of the USATF Montana Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships earlier this month in Bozeman.
“CrossFit helps with track a lot,” Sampson said. “It helps in football and basketball with agility.”
CrossFit and Barbells also helps Sampson spend some quality time with his family. Most of his family participates on some level. His sister Beth qualified for nationals for the second time, and his father Scott is a coach.
Scott Sampson is a former offensive lineman and offensive line coach at Montana Tech. He encourages his son to take advantage of the opportunities provided at Copper City CrossFit.
“He said we’re pretty lucky that we get to do this when we’re so young,” Sam Sampson said. “When he was young, there wasn’t these opportunities for kids.”
The younger Sampson said coaches like his dad are the reason he has a pair of national medals.
“They push you to PR, but if you’re tired that day they push it off,” Sampson said. “They’re more worried about us being safe.”
Sampson said he plans to compete in weightlifting for years to come, so don’t be surprised if these two medals are not his last.
“I’m going to try to do it as long as I can,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”