Student-Athletes Carry Heavy Load

Northwestern’s Natalie Friend

Ashley Heisler

Imagine stumbling into a strenuous, physically exhausting and demanding sport by chance and finding out you’re a natural.

Collin Ito of Northern Michigan University began weightlifting in the eighth grade. He was too big to play football and “did not fit into the other sports,” he says.

Natalie Friend, a student at Northwestern University, started weightlifting when she was thirteen and has not looked back. She was running track when her coach sent her to weightlifting training in the off season.

Fast-forward to present day. Ito attended and competed in the Sicily Trophy Tournament on the Junior National Team and currently trains at the United States Olympic Education Center, making what he likes to call “decent progress”. He trains nine times a week doing squats, pulls, deadlifts, powerlifts, and overall bodybuilding.

Friend is also a member of the Junior National Team. She stressed the importance of being on the team — “you’re more focused on the team because your goal isn’t to do the best you can do. Your goal is to do the best for the team, so your whole outlook changes.”

Despite the massive amounts of training, both Ito and Friend also juggle the demands of being a student-athlete. Ito noted it is “sometimes difficult; you get tired towards the end of the week… you get bags of ice and just lay in bed, reading and studying.” Friend pointed out the delicate balance of driving to the practice center, practicing, and school work, but remains grounded, as “most everyone at this school is accomplished…it’s not like I’m the only one who is busy.”

Weightlifting has proved to be a rewarding experience for both Ito and Friend. Ito, who is currently on a weightlifting scholarship, loves that he is able to train and study at the same time. Friend and Ito both love meeting people in the weightlifting community. “It’s great to meet new people, you get close to them, even though you only see them four times a year…it’s like a reunion,” Friend said.

If you find yourself looking for people who lift more than themselves off the couch in the late afternoon, look no further than the USA Weightlifting National Collegiate Weightlifting Championships. Now in it’s second year as part of the Collegiate Nationals, the event features seven women’s weight divisions and eight men’s divisions. The Championships are open to students currently enrolled in college courses

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