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OAKLAND, Cali. — Oakland middle school students are known for a lot of things: studying hard, playing with friends, video games, and sports, including basketball and soccer. But now, there’s one middle school student who is also known for being a national champion. 13-year-old Seth Evans is the U.S. Champion in Olympic Weightlifting for his age group, 13 and under. “I won snatch, I won clean and jerk, and I won the overall medal,” he said.
“Not only did he win, but he won in dominating fashion,” said Mike Jenkins, Seth’s coach and owner of SPS Gym. “The way weightlifting works is everybody has three snatches and three clean and jerks. His weights were so heavy that everyone completed all their lifts, and then Seth went out after everyone else to do all his lifts. So, it was quite the commotion. Like, who the heck is this kid right here? And at the end of the day, he is literally the strongest 13 year old in the country, and he’s from right here in Oakland.”
He was training for more common childhood sports like football and track, and took a look at the SPS Gym near Highway 880, and that’s when he fell in love with this sport. “I’m trying to see if I’m boundless, if I have a certain limit, if I hit that, am I going to stop? Of course, I don’t want to stop….I’m trying to be boundless.”
Jenkins and another man who is an Olympic coach and former Gold Medalist, saw something very different in Seth. “(The coach) said to me, I’ve never seen anything like this. He said, ‘this kid is very special.’ And again, the main thing is his focus.”
In the weightlifting world, the two different events are the snatch and the clean and jerk. “Snatch is grabbing the bar and moving it overhead in one motion,” explained Jenkins. “Clean and jerk, you first rack the bar to your shoulders, and then you do a second movement overhead. With those two movements, you are able to move much heavier weights.”
Seth was dominant in both events, lifting 66 kilograms or 145 pounds in the snatch and 80 kilos or 176 pounds in the clean and jerk. “Traditionally, in Olympic weightlifting, your snatch is less than your clean and jerk,” added Jenkins (pictured with Seth). “The clean and jerk is the big lift. Seth’s snatch was bigger than all the other kids’ clean and jerks. So, his light lift was bigger than everyone’s heavy lift.”
Seth’s father, Dion Evans, is also the athletic director at Madison Park Academy. “It’s very humbling to walk into my house, or have him in my car, knowing I have a national champion sitting next to me and sleeping in my house. To be honest with you, as a parent, I would love to say it’s just good genes, but I don’t know. There’s something in him. I think we’re still learning it ourselves.”
Evans adds that not only is he now convinced that weightlifting is a great sport, but that it can also serve as the perfect diversion for young people who might be on the wrong path. “There are some kids in this city, that if they don’t run into SPS Gym soon, (KTVU crime reporter) Henry Lee will be doing stories on them… Seth is a unique kid, but he’s not the only kid in Oakland who can do what he’s doing. We just got to get those parents here to see what my kid is doing, and Mike’s program will tell the rest of the story.”
This story works for girls, too. They also train at SPS Gym, and an 11-year old named Annelisse Cabrera from Oakland (pictured) was a national champion in 2018.
Seth won the championship at the USA Weightlifting Youth Nationals in Detroit. USA Weightlifting is the single organizing committee for the country for Olympic weightlifting, and it’s the one that sends athletes to the Olympic Games. The Tokyo Olympics are set to begin in just over two weeks. And while Seth has a long way to go to reach that level, he already has his sights set on the historic international competition. “My next age category is 14-15, and I’m trying to get on top of the podium in that, too. And after that, keep striving and try to make it to the Olympics.”