Raising the bar: Success as a competitive weightlifter figures to make Vernon Hills’ Randall even better at football
Vernon Hills' Drake Randall lifts at CrossFit Rise in Schaumburg on Monday. He will compete in a national tournament this weekend in Michigan. | Ruthie Hauge ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 20, 2012 1:54AM
Summer vacation. What summer vacation?
This week, Vernon Hills High School senior-to-be Drake Randall participates in the Cougars’ football camp during the day and then drives to Schaumburg for intense weightlifting session ahead of Sunday’s Youth National Weightlifting (16-17) competition in Dearborn, Mich.
“I’m exhausted,” he said.
Of course, the 6-foot-3, 265-pounder wouldn’t have it any other way.
In fact, since he started training with Roger Nielsen, a two-time U.S. Olympic coach, in November, he has made dramatic improvements. When he first began, he could snatch about 150 pounds and clean and jerk 215 pounds.
This April, at the 2012 Illinois State Weightlifting Championships, he captured first place in the heavyweight division. He lifted 198 pounds in the snatch and 258 pounds in the clean and jerk for a total of 456 pounds. Weights are measured in kilometers so his winning score was technically 207 kilometers.
Nielsen said that Randall is ahead of schedule.
“He’s progressed even better than I thought,” Nielsen said. “He likes the idea of competitive weightlifting, and he’s made steady progress on his lifts. He works so hard and his potential for the future is really good.”
Randall can already tell in summer football camp that his rigorous training has made a difference. He is able to assert his will on both sides of the line.
“I’ve noticed that I can really move kids a lot easier,” Randall said. “I’m definitely more powerful.”
Although Randall is primed for Sunday’s competition, football remains his No. 1 priority. He has balanced training for nationals with trips for football camps at Drake, Iowa State, Bowling Green, Illinois and Purdue.
Randall, who aspires to work in the aerospace industry, is receiving plenty of interest from Ivy League schools. He also said Drake, among others, is recruiting him. After his senior season of football, Randall plans to make his official college visits in December. He will be the second person in his family to play college football. His older brother, James, played for Western Michigan.
Randall said despite his busy schedule, which includes throwing the shot put and discus in the spring, he always looks forward to going to the gym.
“I love doing the Olympic-style lifts and I get to work out with older guys who push me hard,” Randall said. “Coach (Nielson) is awesome. What we’re doing can be dangerous, and he really knows what he’s doing.”
Added Nielsen: “He’s doing a lot of different things so he’s training tired most of the time. It can be a grind but he’s doing really well.”
At the Illinois State Championships, his first competition, Randall was nervous until he did his first lift. Then, much like he settles down after the first hit in football, he was in his element.
Part of the appeal for Randall is the tangible sense of improvement he sees each week.
“It excites me to gain strength each week,” he said. “It’s always nice to put more weight on the bar and make the lift, and really, there’s no end of the road. You can always get stronger.”
His first taste of competition at the state level has him hungering for more.
And he’ll only have to wait a few more days for his next opportunity.
“I’ll be going up against guys from all over the country,” he said. “I’m excited to see how I’ll stack up.”