Western student hopes to represent US in Olympics

Features Lifestyles

Brianna Barnett braces herself in front of the barbell for the clean and jerk. She bends over and wraps her fingers around the bar, still in the mindset that she is going to thrust the 94 kg (206.8 pound) barbell over her head. She whips the weight up with her elbows out. Barnett puts one foot out in front of the other as she throws the barbell over her head. A giant smile immediately covers her face. She throws the barbell down in victory–no sweat.

Missouri Western freshman sports recreation major Barnett has been Olympic-style weightlifting since she was 9 years old. Olympic-style lifting is in her blood.  Her older brother Brandon used to lift, and most famously, her uncle and 2-time U.S. Olympian, Wesley Barnett, lifted as well.

Barnett is currently one of the top seven lifting prospects age 20 and under in the U.S.  She has represented the U.S. five times in competitions outside the country.  She has competed in Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Bulgaria and Malaysia.

Barnett is currently working hard to prepare for the Olympic Team Trials that will take place March 2 through 4, 2012.  She says she has been training extremely hard to get her strength up and believes that she will do well in the trials.

“I have had five opportunities to represent the USA already, but as far as the Olympics, that is my ultimate goal,” Barnett said. “To represent Team USA would mean the world to me.”

Barnett had the option of moving out of state to train at an Olympic training center, but chose to stay in St. Joseph and attend Western.  Not many people would have turned down an opportunity of that magnitude, but Barnett states that several factors kept her from going.

“There was the issue of where I would attend school while I was there,” said Barnett. “I am happy with the decision I made to stay here because it’s good to train with a coach I am used to, and I also have friends here I couldn’t live without.”

Dennis Snethen is Barnett’s lifting coach at the Wesley Center, which is named after Barnett’s uncle Wes.  Snethen is a Missouri Western Alumnus, class of 1981.  He has been coaching weightlifters in St. Joseph for 31 years.  His accomplishments include coaching over 100 national champions, as well as coaching Olympic weightlifters Pete Kelly and Wesley Barnett.

Snethen says he has really enjoyed coaching over the years, even though it has been a lot of hard work.  He believes that Barnett has the potential to be the best and possibly bring home a medal in the 2012 or 2016 Olympic Games.

“Brianna is a great athlete, and I believe that the 2016 Olympics will be her biggest shot,” said Snethen.

Barnett speaks very highly of Snethen.  One thing she is very grateful for is, when she was having trouble getting back and forth to practice, Snethen and his family let Barnett live with them for a year so she wouldn’t miss practices.  Barnett currently resides in the Missouri Western dorms.  She is without a vehicle right now, so Snethen’s son picks her up and takes her to practice.

“Dennis has been there through thick and thin, and he always speaks the truth,” said Barnett.  “He and his family have helped me out so much.”

Snethen currently coaches over 130 male and female lifters, starting in the third grade.  The cost for lifting at the Wesley Center is $15 per month, but Snethen says that he would never turn anyone who wanted to lift down whether they can pay the $15 or not.  Anyone interested in Olympic-style lifting can contact the Wesley Center at 816-238-4511 or www.inter-serv.org/wesley.htm

Along with Snethen, junior Keri Lorbert, who has listened to Barnett’s unique experiences as a weightlifter, feels Barnett has led an intriguing life and hopes she will do great things in the future.

“I think it’s a really cool thing Brianna’s doing,” Lorbert said. “I wish her the best of luck.”