Kenai Central senior Kelsey Booth did not win the championship she wanted at the USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals on Thursday in Scranton, Pennsylvania, but it did take an all-time great performance to beat her.
Competing at 114 pounds and under in the teen 2 (16- and 17-year-olds) category, Booth finished second to Caitlin Golden of New York. Golden set all the USAPL American records — bench, squat, deadlift and three-lift total — en route to her win.
“My goal was to initially win nationals because this was only Caitlin Golden’s second meet,” Booth said from Pennsylvania. “She’s just naturally stronger than me, so I was thrown off a bit.”
Booth still put on a nearly flawless performance. She hit all three of her squats with a best of 198 pounds and hit all three of her bench presses with a best of 105 pounds.
She nailed her first two deadlifts to get to 226 pounds before her third deadlift of 236 pounds came up so fast that she allowed the bar to drop a bit to disqualify the lift, though she was still able to lock out the lift.
Her squat, bench and three-lift total are state records.
“I’m extremely happy with how I did, especially because it is my first national meet,” Booth said. “Caitlin now has four American records and I know I’d love to be in her place, but sometimes things like that happen.”
Booth also wanted to qualify for USA’s international powerlifting squad, but she will be an alternate to Golden.
Booth burst on the powerlifting scene at the 31st Alaska Powerlifting Championship in early May when she set an American record for her age and weight class in the squat at 194 pounds. She had just started powerlifting the previous summer.
She went to Raw Nationals looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Peninsula teen lifters Cipriana Castellano and Robin Johnson, who each won national titles and qualified for international competition at Raw Nationals in 2014. Castellano and Johnson were not at Raw Nationals this year.
Despite finishing second, Booth said the experience was invaluable.
“Going into nationals really changed my perspective on a lot of things — how people approach the platform, how people take care of themselves,” Booth said. “The powerlifting community is a very welcoming place.
“I met a lot of amazing people I can keep in touch with as I grow as a powerlifter.”
Booth also said she learned a lot about herself as a competitor. Rob Schmidt, Booth’s coach and the Alaska State Chair for USAPL, told her that her lifts had great technique, probably due to an intense focus Booth said she achieved for the first time.
“The level of concentration I got into was one of the best highs ever,” Booth said. “It was like tunnel vision. I couldn’t hear anyone except for my platform coach and Rob.”
Booth said she got great support from all the Alaskans in attendance, particularly Kaylie and Theresa Ball from Anchorage.
Schmidt wrote in a text message that the meet had 1,147 competitors, making it the largest known meet in the history of the sport.
Booth said she would like to keep the popularity of the sport going at the Dena’ina Powerlifting Challenge at Kenai Central on Nov. 21.
As for Booth’s career, she would like to continue powerlifting while going to college next year.
“I’m going to train harder to make myself better,” she said. “I made a lot of new friends here that will inspire me to be better.
“Next year, I’m going to be the strongest Kelsey I can be.”