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By Marlys Kruger
After winning a national powerlifting title at the high school level her senior year, 2018 Colfax graduate Mikaela Leibfried has continued that success at the collegiate level. Leibfried won a National Collegiate Championship this past fall in Philadelphia, PA, as a member of the Midland University (Nebraska) powerlifting team.
Leibfried received a scholarship to Midland after her junior year of high school and began competing for them as a freshman. She won a home meet that year with a total of 826.7 pounds in the Women’s Equipped Division, and placed fourth in the 2019 USA Powerlifting Collegiate National meet held in Columbus, OH. Her fourth-place finish helped the Midland team win their first national team championship.
The 2020 national meet that should have been held last spring was postponed and held last November due to the COVID pandemic. Competing in the 52k (114.6 pounds) weight class, Leibfried lifted a combined total of 362.5 kg. Each competitor has three attempts at the squat, the bench press and the deadlift and the highest lift of all three are added together for the total score. There are also two categories for lifters: Raw and Equipped. Leibfried competes in the Equipped Division where they are allowed to use supportive equipment such as weightlifting belts, knee wraps, special bench press shirts and squat suits. Raw lifters shun the use of most of these things but are allowed to use certain specially-approved equipment.
Hard work pays off
A typical workout week for Leibfried means lifting 4-5 days of mandatory practices. This includes two or sometimes three separate sessions and her coach splits up practices by raw and equipped, males and females or upper classmen and freshmen. One of the biggest differences from high school and college lifting is the coaching ratio with a 30:1 ratio at Midland, while at Colfax it was 4:1, according to Leibfried.
“We had more coaches in high school then we do now,” Leibfried said. “We had about 20 lifters in high school with coach Matt DeMoe, coach Chad Evenson and my dad, Wade Leibfried to help and we have just under 70 lifters at Midland with two coaches. I really rely on my teammates now to wrap me and set my bench shirts. We also host most of our regional meets but for Colfax we went to River Falls, Osceola, Elk Mound, or Whitehall. Sometimes (at high school meets) we would get there at 6:00 a.m. and will not leave until 6:00 p.m. because there were almost 400 competitors. At the college level, we have one fourth less than that competing,” she added.
Each individual prepares a little different for the big meets, according to Leibfried.
“If the meet is 12 weeks away, as I get closer to it, my reps go down and the weight I lift goes up,” she said. “Being an equipped lifter, I usually stay out of my equipment and increase the frequency of use the closer I get to the meet, so my body is used to lifting in the gear,” she added.
“My knowledge of the sport has increased since high school,” Leibfried said. “I can now tell you before seeing the lights if it will be a good or bad lift. If I have a red light – which means no lift, I will likely know the reason for it. One reason for this is I have become a USA Powerlifting state referee and have been in the referees chair at over a dozen meets.”
“I have met many great people in this sport and have had rivalries from high school competitions who are now my teammates,” she continued. “Here at Midland, we are a varsity team sport whereas other college teams like UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls are club teams. For me, being a club sport or a school sport really doesn’t affect me. I am there working my butt off for myself and my team, whether it was high school or now at college. This is an individual and a team sport and scoring points in all weight classes can be the difference between being the national champions or not,” she explained.
With two more years of competition left, Leibfried would like to stay at the same weight class she is at now since she is currently the only one on her squad at that weight. Up next is a chance for another national championship when she and her teammates compete next month in Baton Rouge, LA.