ST. CLOUD -- Weight lifting has become more than a hobby for nineteen-year-old Vanessa Bellmont and Ulises Manzanilla.

At the end of this month Bellmont, of St. Cloud, and Manzanilla, of Monticello, will get a chance to compete in the Junior National Weight Lifting competition.

"I started really getting into weight lifting about three months ago," says Bellmont.

She will be competing in just her second competition.

"After the first meet I reached the qualifying total of 120kg," says Bellmont. "I was able to lift 130kg which was good enough for an automatic bid for Junior Nationals."

Manzanilla (above) and Bellmont work on their lifts. (PHOTO: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON News)

Manzanilla has been seriously training for two years. He had a chance to compete last year but a broken hand held him out.

"It was mentally hard to me to over come," says Manzanilla. "Every time I looked at my hand I was like what did I just do."

Manzanilla totaled 230kg at his qualifying meet, only needed 185kg. This year he has a chance at a medal.

"I'm excited cause last year I wasn't able to go, this year I'm a lot happier," says Manzanilla.

Bellmont and Manzanilla lift on a regular basis at the Barbell Performance Lab in St. Cloud. Their coach Eric Jensen says he continues to see improvement in each of them.

"The biggest improvement we can see over the past few months is in technique, which we preach everyday," says Jensen.

Athletes from all across the country will meet in Aurora Colorado to compete in many events at Junior Nationals.

"There is different weight classes of about five to ten weight lifters in each and competition will be tough," says Jensen.

Both Bellmont and Manzanilla are excited for the chance to compete at Junior Nationals. Bellmont says the nerves haven't set in yet.

"I'm not really nervous at all," says Bellmont. "The day of the competition is when I start getting nervous."

Manzanilla's advice to anyone who wants to try competitive lifting -- don't be afraid to fail.

"Don't be afraid to fail at a weight, just keep on going forward," says Manzanilla.

Jensen says he doesn't care if Bellmont or Manzanilla place, but rather do better then they did at the previous meet.

The Junior Nationals will take place on January 31st.


Ulises Manzanilla (left) and Vanessa Bellmont talk things over during their workout at Barbell Performance Lab. (PHOTO: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON News)