KATE WEHR: Here's My Story

Written By: KATE WEHR

When applying to be a guest writer for this blog, I was trying to list topics that I had a lot of personal experience with. I listed the topics “Overcoming an Injury” and “Trusting your coaches and PT,” and now that I sit here beginning to write, I realize that the two topics go hand-in-hand.

Here’s my story:

When I was in middle school and the beginning of high school, I was in all of the sports: softball, track and field, dance, baton twirling, volleyball, and even wrestling. Yes, you read it right…I wrestled for three years.

I am so thankful for those three years though because wrestling led me straight to Dane Miller at Garage Strength in little Leesport, PA. We went to Garage Strength as a wrestling team. We had a six month team membership, and as those six months came to a close, Dane continuously nagged me to stay and train as a weightlifter, and I did…I was convinced. This turned out to be the best decision I have made to date.

After about a year of training one or two days a week, I went to youth nationals in Minnesota and placed third in the 63kg, 14-15 class. I was invited out to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a 15 and under camp, and this is when I knew I had to start taking this sport more seriously.

I immediately started training five days a week, qualified for and went to the American Open in 2015, broke the American record in snatch and total in the 58kg, 14-15 class, and went to the winter camp at the Olympic Training Center over Christmas break with four of my teammates from Garage Strength. 

I had back pain for a few months leading up to Junior Nationals in 2016. As I was resting between my second and third attempt in the clean and jerk at juniors, my coaches and one of the medical staff, John Giacalone, were debating if they should let me take the attempt or not due to pain. They decided to let me go for it. I collapsed in the bottom of the clean and fell straight onto my butt.

I stood up, and as soon as I reached the stairs to get off of the platform, my legs lost feeling and fell out from under me. My coaches were right there to catch me and carried me back to the medical table. (Now, I must say each coach had an arm and a leg and they were pulling me in two different directions. It was very uncomfortable.)

But anyways, after that day I went to OAA to see a doctor, and they suggested I get an MRI and not lift. After getting the MRI, I learned that I had a herniated disc in between my sacrum and my lumbar in my back. I immediately started physical therapy with Doctor John Giacalone, and only did accessory work for almost two months. Speaking to doctors and almost anyone who asked about this injury would say “we have plenty of time” since I told them I wouldn’t be competing until youth nationals in June that year. I knew overcoming this injury would be a challenge and ongoing since herniated discs don’t just go away. I went to Mobility Doc, John’s practice, three days a week, then decreasing the days as time went on and I could train.

I went to Youth Nationals in Austin, TX in 2016 and competed in the 58kg, 16-17 class. I got a bronze medal in snatch, but didn’t place in clean and jerk or overall. I ended up qualifying for the American Open that year in Orlando, FL, went, and had an average performance. Flash forward to Junior Nationals 2017 in Missouri. My goal was to make the youth world team. I competed on my birthday…and I bombed out. 0/3 in the snatch.

I cried the entire night even though my parents wanted to take me out to dinner for my birthday and I had been cutting weight for that meet. As many people can relate, this bomb out motivated me to train harder for youth nationals that year to make the Youth Pan-Am team. 

A week before youth nationals I got strep throat. I trained right through it (except on one day when I was vomiting), and the week leading up to nationals, drove to Missouri with my family to watch my brother graduate from basic training and his military police schooling for the army. I trained at a gym there, Combat Xtreme MMA, for two days where I knew no one. I then flew down to Atlanta from Missouri.

The situation leading into youth nationals was not at all in my favor, and it can’t always be, but the results were. As my snatch session came to a close, I realized that I had won the snatch portion. I went 3/3. Clean and jerks were the same, 3/3. After my last clean and jerk, the results of overall medals were out of my hands. There were many attempts after I had taken my last clean and jerk, and all I could do was watch. As the last clean and jerk attempt of my session was taken, and missed I realized that I was going to take gold overall. This was probably the first time in the little less than 3 years that I had been weightlifting that I cried tears that were not of pain or frustration. This was the breakthrough meet that my coaches and I were waiting for. 

A few weeks passed and I got a call from USA Weightlifting inviting me onto the youth Pan-Am team to travel to Palmira, Colombia. I gladly accepted the offer. At the Youth Pan-Am weightlifting championships, I took the bronze sweep, going 5/6. 


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I traveled to the American Open Finals in Anaheim, CA and had the best meet of my life. Although I didn’t go 6/6, I set a new youth American record snatch in the 16-17 58kg class at 79kg. The record had been standing for 9 years and this was my biggest goal that I had set for the year. I ended up clean and jerking 97kg and increasing my total 10 kilos since the Youth Pan-Am championships just a little over a month before. At the 2015 and 2016 American Opens I placed in the 30s and this past year I placed 6th.

Those are a few of my accomplishments…or lack of, and you might have read this whole thing and wondered why it had anything to do with my topics of overcoming injuries and trusting your coaches and PT.

What you didn’t know was that throughout this entire process I went to Mobility Doc to see John, my PT at least two days a week. I had the herniated disc, sprained my wrist two times, and a month before Pan-Ams, I hurt my shoulder to a point where I couldn’t even front rack without excruciating pain. This is on top of all of the normal aches and pains every weightlifter has. I had to trust John with my body, my mobility, and overall my health. I had to trust Dane, my coach, with my training and modifying exercises that would allow me to lift without pain.

I can remember a specific conversation I had leading up to the American Open in California, he asked me what I wanted to do to modify my program to make me perform best and I told him “whatever you think is right.” I put all of my trust into Dane to make me the best weightlifter I can be because without Dane I would still be playing all of my high school sports and I would just be average. Without Dane I was mediocre, but with Dane I am a champion. You have to be able to trust your coach and anyone who is helping you get to your goals, because without the trust, you cannot succeed.

To continue to follow Kate's journey in the sport of weightlifting, please give her a follow @k8_where  

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