Two University of North Carolina at Greensboro students will be on this year's U.S. Junior Men's World Powerlifting team that will compete in Africa next month.
Shawn Hoover will be one of 11 powerlifters on the team, while a boyhood friend, Brian Boyer, will serve as an assistant coach. The meet, the 1991 International Powerlifting Federation's Junior Men's World Championship, will be held during the first week of September in Abijan, Ivory Coast.``It's an exciting opportunity,' said Boyer, 30, who will complete his Ph.D. in exercise physiology next year. ``You have dreams of helping an athlete with an extraordinary amount of talent achieve a goal like this. To be named as an assistant coach was a surprise.'
Hoover, 22, began weight training with Boyer as an eighth-grader in Kansas. Boyer worked in a gym and Hoover and his football teammates came into the gym to train.
Boyer had been around the sport of powerlifting for some time. Both of his parents competed. His mother held 11 national records.
He had posted several impressive finishes in powerlifting competitions. Boyer finished fifth in the 1982 Junior National Championship and won the Kansas State Championships in 1986 and 1988.
He also was the runner-up in his weight class (181 pounds) in the 1987 Junior Nationals and finished second in the 1986 Texas Classic. In addition, Boyer became a national powerlifting referee and now is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Boyer recognized Hoover's early talent in the sport and began training him for some meets. Hoover's hard work paid off when he won the Kansas State High School Championship in 1986 and 1987, taking the Best Lifter Award both years.
Hoover also placed first in two Kansas State Open meets, then won the U.S. Powerlifting Federation's High School National Championship. He also set USPF teenage records in North Carolina for the squat (612 pounds), deadlift (628 pounds) and for total lift (1,548 pounds).
``It's easy to chart your progress in this sport,' said Hoover, a senior in exercise and sport science.
Hoover had several scholarship offers to play football at small schools in Kansas. The Goldsboro native had grown up in Kansas but wished to return to North Carolina for college. He spent his first year at N.C. State, then transferred to UNCG's exercise science program as a sophomore.
Boyer, in the meantime, had entered UNCG's doctoral program in exercise science. He and Hoover became roommates and resumed their weight training program together at Greensboro's Ronny Barnes Nautilus gym, where Hoover works part time.
Boyer continued to work with Hoover, gearing his friend for even larger meets. Hoover said he ``bombed out' of his first national meet when he failed to nail his three opening lifts to advance in the competition.
``I think that kind of sparked me to get a high score in the national meet the following year,' he said.
Hoover finished fourth in the 1989 USPF Collegiate National and was named as an honorable mention collegiate All-American powerlifter. The same year, he placed first in the 181-pound class of the USPF Natural National Regionals, a drug-free event.
While Hoover gained confidence in the sport, he also benefited from Boyer's doctoral research. Boyer's research focused on muscle soreness and muscle damage in the sport of powerlifting. Hoover was frequently summoned as a research subject.
The trade-off, however, was that Hoover always remained on the cutting edge of drug-free technology in the sport. He and Boyer trained four days a week at different intensities.
``Brian's done a lot of research in this area, so it's real scientific,' Hoover said. ``Our techniques are real advanced, but a lot of our principles can also be applied to the person who comes in off the street.'
Last year, Hoover finished second in the 1990 USPF Collegiate National Championship at 181 pounds, becoming a second-team Collegiate All-American. He finished fourth in this year's USPF Collegiate Nationals, again gaining All-America status.
Hoover's career best lifts have included a 633-pound deadlift, a 633-pound squat, and a 343-pound bench press. The 5-foot-6 1/2-inch, 188-pound athlete will compete in the 181-pound class at the World Championship.
``It is a thrill to see someone so deserving reach this level,' said Boyer, reached by telephone at his home in Kansas.
``Another coach once said of Shawn that no matter what weight it is, he's going to overcome that weight due to his will. Shawn possesses unyielding intent. That's the major factor in his success.'
Although strength-building sports have come under recent fire because of steroid abuse, Hoover is adamant about competing in drug-free events. The World Championship will involve state-of-the-art drug tests, which he hopes will serve as a deterrent for those powerlifters who still use strength-enhancing drugs.
But what pleases him most is having attained the privilege of competing with the world's best powerlifters under age 24.
``I set a goal to go to the world meet a long time ago, and I always felt like I'd make it some day,' said Hoover, who holds a 3.6 GPA and was recently named the ``outstanding senior' in UNCG's undergraduate exercise science department.
``It's not just the lifting part of it that's so great,' he added. ``It's just being at a world level in something. The big thing is having the ability to do it because people around me have helped me.
``A lot of people have the ability to lift, but they might not have the resources, family or friends to accomplish that goal,' Hoover said. ``A lot of people have taken a back burner to help me reach this point.'
Described by Boyer as being a ``humble, reticent and quiet individual,' Hoover reflects the newest wave of powerlifters who are dedicated to the science of their sport and the development of the total lifter.
This coming school year, he will serve as president of UNCG's Golden Chain honor society by nominations of faculty and peers. He also will work as a consulting editor to review senior undergraduate theses.
Hoover said he regards next month's World Championship as ``the big one.' He doesn't plan to change anything for his first world meet.
``I really don't plan to approach it any differently than anything else I've competed in,' he said. ``It's supposed to be fun. Besides, we figure that the philosophy of our training has gotten us this far, so why change it?'
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