By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Twenty-five Top 25 lifters in the Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association rankings in 2015. Five Top 5 lifters. One state runner-up.
The 2015 Belton Lady Tigers Powerlifting team had a banner year. They put lots of hardware in the trophy case.
The 2016 team has all sorts of potential to do the same.
Belton returns many of their ranked lifters for this season, all with state championship hopes. The training has been intense, with weights, calisthenics; duck walks around the building and other muscle building, strength and conditioning techniques.
“I am very pleased both with the number of lifters participating and the effort they are putting into workouts,” Belton head coach Jason Moffett said. “We have a total of 47 girls lifting right now and they are doing a good job. Many of them are newcomers, so we are kind of starting from scratch with those, but I have already seen good improvement.
Dana Young, who was a runner-up at the state meet in the 148-pound weight class, lifted a personal-best 800 pounds (310 squat, 175 bench press, 315 dead lift) last season. A two-sport athlete (volleyball and powerlifting), she is already working towards a return to state glory under the 148 umbrella.
“With playing volleyball, we work out during the athletic period, so it helped keep me in shape,” Young said. “I made sure I got to the weight room during the Christmas break to stay toned and in shape.
Young was solid in all three disciplines leading up to the big meet last year. But early on in the preseason, the junior has worked towards improving her squats.
“With the workouts that I have been given early in the season, I feel like the attention is really on my squats,” Young said. “I trust my coaches and they want to get me where I want to be. They have been working with us on legs, which will work on ankling.”
With the 148-pound class being one of the state’s toughest, Young, Kamryn Rodriguez and Lady Tiger softball catcher Sydney Andrews will be up for the task. There is also a chance that Young could drop down into the 132-pound class (at the 2015 state meet, she competed at 139), but that remains to be seen.
“We have a great meet schedule,” Young said. “We recently got Sydney and right now she is lifting more than me. So I am excited for her. She has some pedigree behind her (sister Ashleigh Andrews, who is a World-Class Powerlifter) and I know she will compete well. I am weighing in the 128-130 range right now, so we will see if I stay at 148 or drop down to 132. I will battle to place first or second at every meet.”
“Well, Sydney is most certainly going to be in the running at the state meet in the 148’s,” Moffett said. “She has the pedigree and the work ethic to accomplish great things. Dana has actually cut a little bit of weight and it looks like she is going to wind up being a 132 this year. I think that will benefit her and our entire team. It gives us a chance to be top finishers in two different weight classes at most every meet we attend.”
With having the state experience in her corner, Young is one of the Lady Tiger lifters that brings leadership and discipline into the team’s mindset, as well as individually.
“We have a lot of discipline and I feel like I am approachable and encouraging,” Young said. “It’s not as much a team sport, but we are a team. Everyone thinks differently and different things work for different people. It’s a mental game.”
Maria Martinez was the only Belton lifter that was state-ranked in two weight classes: fifth at 114 (225 squat, 80 bench and 265 dead for total of 570) and 17th at 123 (185 squat, 90 bench and 265 dead for a total of 540). She teetered between the two weight classifications, but had more success at 114. She plans to compete at 123.
“I worked on my dead lift and on my hips, strengthening them,” Martinez said. “I have done a lot more squat-work and overall small details. My bench was pretty bad last year and I have worked hard to get it better. I am up over my body weight now, so that really helps.”
Martinez is another example of team leadership, but is quick to point out that the team supports one another.
“The team is the best support system you can ask for,” Maria Martinez said. “Our team is great with constructive criticism and they push us all.”
Arianna Garcia is another two-sport athlete (cheerleading and powerlifting) who has benefitted from workouts in other sports. She was ranked fourth in the 105-pound weight class in 2015 and cheerleading helped keep her in shape.
“I’ve gone to all the practices that there are and continue to put more weight on the bar,” Garcia said. “I feel like I am getting better each day. For cheer, we work out our abs and we do the same in powerlifting as well. I am a base in cheer, so we work out our arms and that also helps out in lifting.”
When it comes to meets, the girls admit that they scoreboard watch a bit, watching the score sheets at the meets they are participating in and the rankings on Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association’s website.
“During the season, we work hard and are constantly watching what others are doing and aiming to hit the regional qualifying mark,” Martinez said. “Once we get to regionals, it’s all about making state from there.”
Moffett, assistant coach Stacy Meyers and the team are looking forward to the challenging schedule, which starts on Wednesday at Midway Invitational. The Belton Tiger Invitational will be at Lake Belton Middle School on Saturday, January 23. Copperas Cove, Waco Reicher and Temple are the other stops along the schedule before regionals on March 5 at Kyle’s Lehman High School and the state meet at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi.
“Of course, we always look forward to our own invitational because you have a great opportunity to demonstrate your excellence for a home crowd, so that meet is always big for us,” Moffett said. “We also scheduled a meet at Reicher this year and I am planning to bring a predominantly younger, less experienced group of lifters to that meet, so it will be interesting to see what that group of lifters can do when they are in the spotlight. My main focus is on getting ready for the Regional and State Meets, because that is where you have a chance to really set yourself apart from other schools.”
Among others to watch out for will be Morgan Callin at 181 (fourth-ranked, 735 in 2015), McKenna Thompson at 132 (10th ranked, 615 in 2015), Danessa Ruiz (eighth-ranked at 198, 655 in 2015), Alicia Goodridge (ninth-ranked at 198, 635 in 2015).
“I’m expecting big things from them,” Moffett said. “We have some returners that were very successful last year, including McKenna Thompson, Kamryn Rodriguez, Alicia Goodridge and Danessa Ruiz who should be even better this year. Some newcomers to really keep your eye on are Sydney Andrews, Maggie Dolan, Destinee Bautista and Serenity Yates. I expect all of them to contribute, and I believe Sydney (Andrews) will turn out to be a very outstanding lifter.”
The goal is simple: to win a regional championship.
“For the girls, we want to win the regional championship,” Moffett said. “That is our goal every year. After that it will be on to the state meet, where we would like to prove that we are among the best lifters in the state.”