BELOIT - Katie Spitzmiller wasn't sure that CrossFit was for her.
The then 11-year old was enrolled in a kids class at CrossFit Beloit when she first discovered that her strength, both naturally developed and honed by years of gymnastics training, was outstanding.
More importantly, she was enjoying the actual lifting.
"One of her instructors in the kids class sent me a video of her lifting," Spitzmiller's coach David Boffa said. "I saw that she had great body awareness and was very natural. She started working with us and she's really improved a ton."
For the second straight year, Spitzmiller, 13, of South Beloit will represent the Beloit Barbell Club at the Olympic Weightlifting Youth Nationals, to be held June 28 in Anaheim, Calif.
Spitzmiller, who has cleared 104 pounds in the snatch and 121 pounds in the clean and jerk, has a chance to also qualify for the Junior Nationals if she can repeat those numbers in California.
"The difference is that the youth nationals go up to age 17, while the Junior Nationals go up to age 20," Boffa said. "And it's harder to get into the Junior Nationals also. If she can put up the weight she has been in practice, she'll qualify for that as well, which would be a huge accomplishment."
Spitzmiller said she enjoys the grind of lifting three to four times per week at the Beloit facility.
"Training has always been fun for me," the soft-spoken Spitzmiller said. "And of course I enjoy competing and doing well in the different competitions."
Boffa said it didn't take long before he knew he had a prize student on his hands.
"Her background in gymnastics definitely helped her out a lot," Boffa said. "But the thing that has really allowed her to succeed is her work ethic. She's put in the work, coming in here three or four times per week, and she has a great attitude. She's improved from a technique standpoint, and in the last six months we've seen incredible gains in her strength. That just speaks to how hard she works."
Spitzmiller also competed in last year's Youth Nationals in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the incoming Hononegah freshman said she's not looking to far into the future.
"I just know that I really like doing this," Spitzmiller said. "And I want to keep doing it and see how much better I can get."
Boffa said the benefits of weightlifting can be far-reaching.
"You get the physical benefits, which include building muscle mass and bone density," Boffa said. "Those are things that will help people for the rest of their lives. It helps with speed and coordination that can be beneficial in other sports, too. But the other thing that's great about weightlifting is that everybody can participate. There are people in a weight class down from Katie to all the way up the ladder. It can kind of redefine what you think of as an athlete."
Spitzmiller is expected to lift at around 10 p.m. on June 28, and her set will be live streamed at teamusa.org.