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by Marlys Kruger
In a season that almost didn’t happen because of that dreadful COVID-19 virus, the Elk Mound powerlifting team, along with coaches and school administrators worked together and made sure they did have a season.
What an incredible season it turned out to be as 17 Elk Mound athletes traveled to Aurora, Colorado to compete in the USA Powerlifting High School and Teen Nationals held May 27-30. But, participating wasn’t enough as they brought home a combined team National Championship and two individual National Champions.
The 11 girls from Elk Mound placed first as a team, and the six boys placed second as a team. Combining the points from the two teams resulted in their overall first place. In addition, Teagan Pahl and Ariana Pinder were individual champions in their respective divisions.
Each powerlifter had to qualify for nationals at one of the USAPL sanctioned qualifying meets held around the area this past winter. There were a few more athletes who made the cut but because the meet was moved up from its usual March date to Memorial weekend, several did not travel to Colorado for various reasons.
Each competitor gets three attempts at maxing out on a squat, bench press, and deadlift, then the highest total from each event is added up for a total score. Pahl had a 140 kilogram squat, a 60 kilogram bench and a 167.5 kilogram deadlift for a total of 369.5 to place first in her 84 kg Raw Division. Pinder lifted 55 kilograms in the squat, 37.5 on the bench, and 97.5 in the deadlift for her winning total of 190 in the 47 kg Division. She was the first Elk Mound powerlifter to win a varsity championship having competed a day earlier than Pahl.
The meet was held at a Radisson Hotel ballroom and the spectator section was packed, according to co-head coach Aaron Maves.
“The atmosphere was electric,” he said. “They had three platforms for the athletes to perform on, and with a full house of spectators, the air conditioning went out which made for wild excitement and some heated (literally) competition. They couldn’t really have any restrictions on the number of spectators because people drove from all over the country to watch their kids compete. They would not have been happy watching it on livestream,” he added.
But to win a team title, everyone has to be successful and that included Emma Gillespie and Alyse Egan placing fourth in their respective divisions. While Nanya Kue and Kara Edington both finished in seventh place, and Isabella Harmer was eighth. Placing tenth were Mercedes Hay and Abigail Murphy while Bailey Gilbertson was 11th and Kyah Fischer was 13th.
Top finishers for the boys were Major Gunderson Morris and Reese Brunner in sixth place in their respective divisions, and Blake Burlingame was seventh. Rounding out the boys team were Gabe Moschkau in 27th place, Oscar Wald in 31st, and freshman, Dayne Laney in 15th. All of the Elk Mound athletes competed in the Raw Division as opposed to the Equipped Division. In the Raw Division, they are not allowed to use squat suits, knee wraps, or bench shirts.
“The kids all handled the pressure very well,” Maves said. “Only one of our boys had been to a National meet before but most of them had been at our big state meets. We talked a lot at practice about performing in front of a lot of people in a large venue, and they were nervous but they kept it together pretty well. I was a little nervous myself but I knew we had a good team and strong kids. I have been to three National meets so I had an idea of what to expect. We had a good group of coaches with myself and Abe Ferguson as co-head coaches, and Taylor Deling as assistant coach and we trusted the kids to do their part,” he added.
Although the school did not pay for the kids to compete since it is not technically a school sport, they were very supportive and helpful by finding ways to host competitions at the high school in a safe manner. The kids all had to pay their own way to Colorado so they raised money by doing things like cleaning up public areas and other typical fund raising events.
“I’d say we did pretty good coming from a village of around 1,000 people and a high school population of about 350 kids,” Maves said. “The future is really bright for Elk Mound powerlifting,” he concluded.