It was somewhere around 97 degrees Fahrenheit when Christine Middleton stepped onto the weightlifting platform. Record-breaking heat for what would become a record-breaking evening of fitness.
She faced directly into the sun — setting but still high enough to glint against her amber sunglasses. The barbell was loaded to 265 lb.
Middleton, a member of 2017 CrossFit Games team Ocean State’s Finest, had already clean and jerked 235 and 250 lb. on her first two attempts, each lift smooth and solid. If her third lift was successful, she’d break the record for the heaviest women’s clean and jerk in CrossFit competition history: 257 lb., set by Amanda Barnhart at the 2019 Down Under CrossFit Championship.
But Middleton — who took fourth in the 76-kg category at the 2020 USA Weightlifting National Championship and won Open Workout 21.4 — didn’t know that. All she knew was she felt good.
She pulled under the barbell into an easy squat and stood it straight up out of the hole. Two breaths later, she heaved the weight overhead, catching it with a tidy split jerk.
“I’ll be honest, it didn’t look like a record-setting lift,” said commentator Tommy Marquez.
That’s because it wasn’t intended to be one.
“I had absolutely no clue there was a record or that I was potentially breaking one,” Middleton said later that evening. “I just love the lifts and pushing myself to do more.”
And she wasn’t the only athlete breaking records on the platforms at the Granite Games in Eagan, Minnesota, Friday night.
Just a couple hours later, Anthony Davis snatched 340 lb. in the men’s competition, simultaneously winning the event, surpassing his 325-lb. lift in the same event from 2018 — which he also won — and breaking the record for heaviest men’s snatch in a CrossFit competition, set by Tola Morakinyo at 337.3 lb. in the 2019 Reykjavik CrossFit Championship.
“I didn’t even know that until today,” Davis said of Morakinyo’s record, which he thought had been 330 lb. “I’m like, ‘Dang, I gotta add five more pounds!’”
Like Middleton, Davis is a decorated lifter. He took second in the 102-kg category at the 2019 USA Weightlifting National Championships with a total of 326 kg/718.7 lb. But while they both say breaking records is fine, it’s not the reason they lift.
“I love to lift weights ’cause the barbell is a tool to bring confidence, health, and strength to anyone willing to learn its ways,” said Davis, a coach at Timberwolf CrossFit in St. Paul, Minnesota. “What started out as something to fill a void has become a career, and now I spend my days coaching and helping others find strength themselves.”
Middleton shared the sentiment.
“It’s exciting, empowering (and) just fun!” said Middleton, who coached at Ocean State CrossFit for six and a half years and now works as a certified athletic trainer at Naval Health Clinic New England in Newport, Rhode Island.
“I enjoy getting stronger, motivating other people to get stronger, and coaching the movements,” she continued. “When someone finally gets the movement to feel right, it's the most exciting aspect of weightlifting.”
Though he started CrossFit in 2014 as a “lost college kid trying to figure things out” and fill the vacuum left by high-school sports, now, “there is no better feeling than watching people overcome life obstacles, find strength they never knew they had, and achieve things they never thought possible,” he said. “Being a competitive athlete is fun, but watching someone overwhelmed with joy ’cause they jumped onto (a) box for the first time is of infinite value.”
Middleton’s lift added to her teammate’s 145-lb. snatch for first place in the second event, and team Ocean State’s Finest began Day 2 in second overall with 246 points.
Davis’ event win and fifth-place finish in Thruster Run 3.0 put him atop the leaderboard Saturday morning with an 8-point lead over Saxon Panchik in second.
Cover photo by Meg Ellery.