Corps freshman is raising the bar

  Norwich University gets a wide range of athletes, but Gabriela Carrasquillo isn’t just any ordinary college competitor.

Carrasquillo, who plans on becoming an intel officer in the United States Army, has set herself an athletic goal that aims really high in her sports passion, which is weightlifting. “I aspire to make it to the Olympics one day,” said Carrasquillo.

Carrasquillo, 19,  is a freshman criminal justice and Spanish major from Framingham, Mass., who got into Olympic-style weight lifting at the age of 15. “I really got into it about last year. I competed three times,” said Carrasquillo. In two of those three competitions, she placed in the competition, and currently Carrasquillo is the North Atlantic Junior champion and Bay State champion for weight lifting in her division.

Olympic lifting is contested in two formats, the clean and jerk, or the snatch. These styles of weightlifting utilize multiple areas of the body, and in those two different lifts, Carrasquillo can max out at 205 pounds for her clean and jerk, and do a 155 pound snatch. This is a hefty lift, and all the more so when you consider that she is all of 5 foot 1, and weighs just 135 pounds. She competes in the 63 kg class as an athlete.

Being able to lift that type of weight doesn’t happen overnight. Carrasquillo has been training hard for a long period of time to achieve that level of expertise and strength.

“I started taking a strength and conditioning class at my high school and the coach said I was pretty strong and told me I should get into the lifting club,” said Carrasquillo. When she began to get into weight lifting, she fell in love with it immediately.

“You just work on yourself and your full potential and I love that,” said Carrasquillo.

During last summer, she was training around six hours a day. “I would do an hour and a half of abs and running in the morning. Then in the afternoon I would do two to three hours of technique work,” said Carrasquillo. “I would break it up throughout the day so I wouldn’t put too much stress on my body.”

A typical day for training in the summer for Carrasquillo would be to start with a six o’clock wake up followed by an hour of ab circuits with a two mile run at a steady pace for her cardio. That is just the start of her morning.  Later in the day she would then head back to the gym and do an interval mile sprint. Depending on the day, Carrasquillo would then focus on her form in the kind of lifting she will be practicing.

Carrasquillo’s coaches made that plan for her to follow. “It was a very strict routine to follow,” she said. While exercising is important for Carrasquillo, she also keeps to a specific diet to help her training. “Over the summer at home, my diet would be really strict too,” said Carrasquillo. “I would focus a lot on my macros and calorie intake,” she said, explaining that macro  means tracking the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats she consumes, which is important to maximize muscle growth, muscle repair and recovery.

Keeping to her preferred diet is much more challenging at Norwich. “Over here it’s a lot harder,” said Carrasquillo. “I eat a lot of tuna because it’s high in protein.”

As a student with a busy schedule,  she is “only” training around two to three hours a day rather than six. “I spend five days a week doing Olympic lifting, then two days of active rest, which is cardio and abs,” said Carrasquillo.

What kind of motivation does she draw on for what many might consider a grueling and unusual sport?  “My favorite part about lifting would probably be seeing how much strength you truly have,” said Carrasquillo. “If someone were to look at me, I don’t look very strong. It’s more of a mental thing.”

Carrasquillo says that most Olympic lifters don’t look extremely strong like people would think. “Olympic lifting and body building are two totally different types of lifting,” said Carrasquillo.

The shift to training at Norwich has been a bit of a struggle for Carrasquillo. “The equipment isn’t what I’m really used to training with,” said Carrasquillo. “The gym is also so small, so it’s a hard adjustment from being home.”

Back home, Carrasquillo’s weightlifting training sometimes worries her parents. “My dad really doesn’t have an opinion on it,” said Carrasquillo. “My mom is proud of me, but she gets scared sometimes telling me I’ll break my back if I lift too much.”

Aside from regular Olympic lifting, Carrasquillo has variety of other workouts she enjoys. “I absolutely love cross-fit workouts, even though they are so bad for your body,” said Carrasquillo. “I just love the intensity and my coaches hate them.”

While working out on her own training, Carrasquillo has expanded her interest to also helping out with the men’s football, lacrosse, and baseball teams on campus. “I work with Coach Kruger and help out with lifting for the team,” she said. And she has no problem with staying motivated.  Carrasquillo is constantly training and maintaining her body to stay in top physical shape for possible future competitions.

“I always strive to be better,” said Carrasquillo.

As far as making it to the Olympics, she says she is aiming to qualify in upcoming competitions to get herself noticed in the Olympic lifting community. “This is a very big goal of mine and I will try and achieve this goal by training very closely with my two coaches about six hours a day this summer to up my strength and lifts.”

“I had ACL reconstruction surgery four months ago and I’m halfway through with my recovery, so my lifts are only at about 80 percent of my full potential/maximum strength,” she said, calling right now “crunch time.”

“I am speeding up my recovery time by half of what the surgeon expected.”

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