Last November, the powerlifting team held tryouts and began the long season of training and preparation. After three qualifying events, the road to the USAPL High School National Championships ended in Orlando, Florida on April 1. The team kicked practice into high gear in the final weeks of practice, and every ounce of that effort may have been necessary for what turned out to be the toughest Nationals ever for the Knights.
At 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the team left campus for a flight out of the Des Moines International Airport. They made a stop through Chicago O’Hare, and arrived in Orlando at 3:30 in the afternoon. Over the next day and a half, the team took in the pool, caught a movie, and for some, actively watched their weight.
On Friday, April 1st, after the athlete’s weights were finalized, the lifting began and the competition was stiff. A powerlifting meet consists of three individual events: the squat, benchpress, and deadlift. Each lifter has three attempts to record the biggest lift they can. They are then
added together for a total weight to determine the winner in each weight class. The common strategy is to record an opening lift that is nearly guaranteed for the lifter and progress upward from there. The coaches know that athletes will miss lifts, it is a part of competition. How this team responded is what distinguishes them from other teams.
Read about how lifters competed after the break.
John McClain (114 lbs) kicked off the entire competition. After getting his opening squat, he missed his next two. He responded by maximizing his next two events, hitting every lift in his bench and deadlift. Luis Grijalva (123 lbs) went 9 for 9 in competition, making Nationals his best meet of the season when he established a new personal record for total weight with 984.5 pounds. To put that in perspective, only a handful of other lifters have done that at Nationals.
The goal is for lifters to peak at the end of the season. A theme that emerged this year was lifters getting new personal records (PR) that allowed them to move up in the standings and gain valuable team points. Jabari Walls (148 lbs) was battling between second and third place, and his 424 pound deadlift was the difference. At one point in competition, James Johnson (181 lbs) was in 5th place. He made up ground in the benchpress, and his PR deadlift of 462 pounds also propelled him into second place. Asa Campbell (198 lbs) pulled a 434.5 pound deadlift to secure 4th place. In the
largest weight class, Edmund Gonzales (165 lbs) battled all day and hit his final deadlift, which turned out to be the difference between 5th place and 8th. The latter would have scored zero points for the team.
This truly was a team event for the Knights. When it was all added up, the Knights accomplished what they sought out to do: to win an 11th consecutive USAPL team National Championships. Over the past 12 years, the various Woodward Academy teams have done it all. There have been lifters who have missed lifts, others who dominated their competition. Some years, there has not been much competition for the Knights. This year was not that year. But the lifters performed the way they were capable of and showcased immense grit in the face of serious adversity. They continually fought for the next lift and became National Champions.