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Ohio FF, CrossFit champion shares secrets of success

Samantha Briggs was a firefighter in England, started her CrossFit career at 31, and became a Hamilton firefighter at 40

By Michael D. Pitman

HAMILTON, Ohio — Hamilton firefighter Samantha Briggs is a CrossFit champion and shared some of the secrets of her success, which included titles in 2013 and 2023.

And these qualities can also be seen in this year’s Citizen and Small Business Person of the Year honorees.

A decade ago, Briggs won the 2013 Crossfit Games women’s division championship, and just last year won the women’s 40-44 division masters championship.

“I believe the mindset that you have to develop to become a successful athlete is the same you need to be successful in all aspects of life,” said Briggs, a native of the UK who came to train in Ohio and California, and stayed in this area when she met her partner.

Briggs didn’t start her professional CrossFit career until she was 31 years old, and did so in large part because of a lesson her mom taught her, she said as the keynote speaker Friday night at the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting at Spooky Nook Champion Conference Center.

“My mother always encouraged me and my brother to dream big and to follow those dreams,” she said. “She was always there to support me no matter how crazy it sounded.”

If she had not dared to dream big, she wouldn’t have become a firefighter in England at a time when women didn’t do that. She wouldn’t have taken “a leap of faith” and quit the fire service to become a professional athlete. There were no guarantees for success, but her mom “didn’t bat an eyelid” in support of her daring dream, because “a dream without action is just a wish. You have to be willing to put in the work to make that dream a reality.”

And that daring to dream was also what she needed to return to that first passion, the fire service, joining the Hamilton Fire Department at the spry age of 40.

Daring to dream is also why the chamber honored Taylor Stone-Welch as its 2023 Hamilton Citizen of the Year and Roland Lutz as its 2023 Small Business Person of the Year.

It was a dream as well as a vision for Lutz 25 years ago when he bought the Riverside Athletic Club, which sits on 13 acres next to the Great Miami River. Though his peers “thought I lost my mind,” he saw what could be in Hamilton and, with a smile, said he was glad “everyone else finally caught up.”

But Lutz’s success today started with the passion he developed at a young age with tennis. Actually, it was a love of tennis, and that only grew throughout his playing career and into his coaching career, which included helping two women play last year in the U.S. Open.

Tennis “allowed me to travel the world and meet many great people,” also teaching him the value of work ethic and discipline, and “Lord knows I needed the discipline.”

“It really isn’t work when you get up every day and get to do what you love to do,” Lutz said, adding that being able to use tennis as a vehicle to make a positive impact on a young person’s life “is very rewarding.” And though he would like to coach the next U.S. Open champion, “but seeing these kids excel in life is the ultimate goal.”

Lutz has owned and operated the Riverside Athletic Club on Hamilton-Cleves Road since 1997 and was nominated by Kathleen Klink (2019 Citizen of the Year) and Craig Wilks (2004 Small Business Person of the Year).

Stone-Welch was uncomfortable with the recognition scores of people said he deserved, which is attributed to his countless hours of volunteer work around the city, most notably with the City of Sculpture and Hamilton Ohio Pride. Though he’s proud of his work with the City of Sculpture committee, his work with Hamilton Pride is shaping the city into a place he wanted to have as a gay youth.

“We’re shaping the city into the place I want it to be and a place that would have made more accepted and welcomed when I was younger and kind of struggling to know where I’ve belonged and know if I could fit in,” he told the 400-plus crowd at Spooky Nook Champion Conference Center on Friday night.

Though the honor was intimidating for the native Hamiltonian, and described his feeling as a case of imposter syndrome, especially when he compares himself to the others who’ve won the honor, Stone-Welch said the honor means a lot.

“I really love this city,” he said. “I love all the incredible people that make this city special and I’ve gotten to work with.”

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