SHREVEPORT, La. — At 13 and 9 years old, Noah and Maximus Crofton are making name for themselves in the weightlifting world. When other kids their age are asleep or just waking up, Noah, an eighth-grader at St. Joseph Catholic School in Shreveport, and his younger brother are in the weight room.
“They’re in the gym every morning at six o’clock in the summer and before school,” said their father, John Crofton. “I don’t make them do it. They decide not to miss it.”
These boys don’t miss much of anything, including a meal.
“Last night, they ate four pounds of taco meat and 10 grilled cheese sandwiches between them,” Crofton said.
Outside of the beacon shining on Stoner Hill neighborhood’s favorite son and Olympic weightlifter, Kendrick Farris, power lifting is rarely in the limelight. Reaching the level of world champion and world record holder takes dedication almost beyond comprehension.
On a Thursday afternoon in Shreveport’s downtown YMCA, the Crofton brothers are buzzing from station to station in a weight room that also serves as the Crossfit Training center. Men and women of all ages participate, Maximus being one of the youngest.
While he enjoys performing handstand pushups, older brother Noah adds a pair of 35-pound plates to an already stacked bar, bringing the practice deadlift weight to 235 pounds.
Spreading his feet more than shoulder-width apart, Noah bends at the waist to grab the bar with heavily chalked hands.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Noah explodes into the lift. His knees and thighs shake under the extreme pressure. His bellows-like cheeks turn flame red. Rolling his shoulders back into place while continuing the lift stabilizes the entire operation. For two seconds, Noah stands upright with a slightly sagging bar in his grasp. Mission accomplished.
These two young men keep their cups brimming with confidence and energy — necessary ingredients to become the strongest brothers, pound for pound, in the world. At the proving grounds of the AAU National Championship in Laughlin, Nev., in April, they brought home a bevy of gold medals in power lifting, Olympic weightlifting and in feats of strength.
Feats of strength? Is this a national championship or the Costanzas’ Festivus celebration on “Seinfeld”?
“Tire flip, tire toss, farmer’s carry,” Crofton explains. “The farmer’s carry is when you carry a device equal to your body weight, in each arm — and your arms have to remain straight or stiff — over a distance, 50 yards each way. Max weighs 60 pounds so he had 60 pounds in each hand and had to complete the task multiple times.”
If seeing 60-pound Max breeze through the Farmer’s Carry isn’t enough to feel intimidated, he uses his full name at the competitions:
“From Shreveport, Louisiana, world record-holder Maximus Crofton!”
The spry, smiling boy enjoys the art of intimidation. Asked what kind of smack-talk is involved among pre-10-year-old power lifters, Max replies, “It depends on what they ask me.” Such as?
“Like if they ask me how much I deadlift, I say, ‘145.’ They say, ‘Oh. I do 100.’ Or if they ask me how much I bench press, I tell them, ‘It’s probably more than you do!’”
It ain’t bragging if it’s fact.
The intimidation doesn’t stop with the competitors, though. Maximus believes in scaring the bar before stepping up to do his squats.
“You get to the bar real fast, get under it about this far (six inches or so) and hit your neck to the top of it! You’ve got to show the bar who’s boss! If you miss your lift, you know you didn’t scare it enough,” he says.
Maximus scared the bar sufficiently to squat twice his body weight. He also has deadlifted 158 pounds and bench-pressed 78 pounds. Those are all world records. Noah owns a personal best of 155-pound bench press, 205-pound squat and a deadlift of 245 pounds. Again, world records. After winning gold medals for his weight class and for overall total weight at the Junior Olympics last month in Detroit, Noah’s life took a turn toward a Disney movie. With nothing better to do on the meet’s second day, Noah entered the feats of strength contest against a field of 85 other 14-and-unders.
He had never tried a standing broad jump, but bounded 8 feet to set the standard.
His 18 “strict pull-ups (no movement of the feet),” also topped the field. He averaged 5.3 seconds in the 40 yard dash, impressing his dad.
“He doesn’t even have real running shoes,” Crofton said.
Noah won the gold.
Then father and son were approached by a stranger.
“He said they use the Junior Olympics as a training tool for the Olympic bobsled team,” Crofton recounted. “He then said he would like to give an invitation to one of our guys. I couldn’t imagine who it would be. He said, ‘Noah.’”
The man was Hal Pittman, director of the U.S. Olympic Bobsled’s Youth Development Camp.
In four-man bobsledding, there is a driver, a brakeman and two pushers. What does it take to be a champion pusher?
A 13-year old with gold-medal strength and speed is what the Olympic champion team needs to bolster its hopes in the 2018 Winter Olympics, Pittman said.
Pittman told them the sled is pushed 30 yards.
“That’s a long run pushing something in the ice. I don’t know how to coach that,” John said.
Pittman answered, “You coach him with what you’re doing now; we’ll coach the ice.”
So, Noah Crofton, born and raised in Shreveport, will head to Lake Placid, N.Y., for 30 days next summer to work out at the U.S. Olympic Bobsledding Training Center.
“He will be gone 60 days he following summer and 90 days with a tutor the next year. I can’t afford it but I can’t afford not to give him that opportunity!” his father exclaimed, brimming with pride.
Before meeting Pittman, Noah’s wildest dreams wouldn’t have seen him pushing a bobsled in the 2018 Winter Olympics for Team USA. Now that the possibility has been raised?
“I like being my own person,” he said. “I like standing out. It’s so different, being from the South where it doesn’t snow. I don’t know how I’m going to handle the cold weather — I’m not a cold-weather person.
“It’s almost like a reality show!”