Source: Sherman Publications

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The weight of camaraderie: power-lifters rally round team

April 06, 2011

By Olivia Shumaker

Special Writer for The Review

A group of teenagers, coming together before the front doors to the school are unlocked to the general population. Their dedication to their sport, exemplified in their willingness to wake before the dawn, sets the team apart. This is the Dragon power-lifting team, working to strengthen themselves individually so that they may contribute to the team as a whole.

"It's all mental and getting in a routine to add the weight," said Connor Stalions, one of the power-lifters.

On Saturday, February 26, the power-lifting team traveled to Shepherd High School for a meet. The meet, their second competition this year, was also a regional qualifying meet for the state championship at the close of the season. In all, 32 lifters competed.

The meets are run in a fine science. Lifters are either on the junior varsity power-lifting team or the varsity team, so that there are two competitions going on simultaneously. After that, lifters are divided into different weight class platforms based on the bodyweight they achieved at the last weigh-in. At the platforms, lifters perform three kinds of lifts: squat, bench press, and dead lift.

For each type, the lifter gets three attempts. They choose their beginning weight for each type, and once they successfully lift that weight then they may choose to increase the weight of their next lift. If they cannot successfully lift the weight, they must use their next try to successfully lift it.

All of the weights that lifters successfully heft are added together to their total weight for the meet. The top ten lifters in each weight class can score points for their team in this way.

To prepare for such competitions, lifters meet at school four days per week, lifting from six a.m. to 7:15 a.m.

"This group works had and has a great attitude," said Coach Larsen.

"You've got to give 110 percent," said power-lifter Austin Sturza.

Part of 110 percent is the camaraderie between lifters. Even when success is out of reach, a teammate throws an arm over his fellow lifter's shoulder with words of encouragement.

One example of such brotherhood was when the entire team rallied around lifter Jake Sally at the Shepard when he attempted to break his brother, Adam Sally's, school and state dead lift record of 570 pounds with a 575 pound lift. Sally placed eighth in the state championship with all-state honors.

"I like the camaraderie of how the team works together and supports each other," said lifter Mitchell Shumaker.

At the meet's close, the varsity team won second place overall. Two weeks previously, the team traveled to Croswell-Lexington, where the Dragons took first place. On Saturday, March 5, the lifters were once again on the road to Vassar High School, where, out of 600 lifters, the varsity team took second overall. After Vassar, the team traveled to Jenison High School to qualify more lifters for the state championship.

Post Jenison, the team headed to the Michigan High School Power Lifting Association State Championship on Saturday, March 19 at Fenton High School. The women took third place and the men took fifth in their respective divisions. Six girls placed in the championship, with Amy Wells claiming the title of women's state champion with all-state honors. Seven varsity boys and two junior varsity boys placed in the championship, with Blake McGhee in the super-heavyweight class taking second with all-state honors for the varsity team.

"It's not about winning the competition, it's about the kids being willing to compete and do the best they can, and for every kid that's something different," said Mr. Bell, who was present to watch his son Kyle Bell compete at Shepard.

For Sally, doing the best he could meant following a path treaded before him. "My brother was the first to do it, and I just wanted to follow in his footsteps," Sally said.

Still, it takes a great deal of encouragement to wake up before dawn, on a school morning, to heft more than your own bodyweight. The credit for this encouragement goes out to the members of the team, and to Coach Larsen.

"I take my hat off to Coach Larsen, who's doing an outstanding job leading this team," Bell said.

Whether they are attempting to break records or just breaking personal records, the Dragon power-lifting team can be sure to do Lake Orion proud.