Kenai Central’s Booth sets American record in squat

Before Saturday’s 31st Alaska Powerlfiting Championship in Anchorage, Kenai Central junior Kelsey Booth was known in the powerlifting community for her ponytail and her scream.

You can now add USA Powerlifting American Raw record holder to that list.

Booth became the third Kenai Central student in a little over a year to claim a Women’s Raw American Record on Saturday when, at just 5-foot-2, 112 pounds, she squatted 194 pounds.

Booth joins Kenai Central junior Cipriana Castellano and Soldotna sophomore Robin Johnson, who transferred before this school year from Kenai, as American record holders.

Castellano is on the list for squat, bench, deadlift and total at both 158 and 185 pounds in the 16 to 17 age group.

Johnson is on the list at squat, bench and total at 185 pounds in the 14 to 15 age group.

Both Castellano and Johnson are headed to the International Powerlifting Federation RAW Classics Powerlifting World Championship in early June in Finland.

Booth is not at that level yet, but she stamped herself as a lifter to keep an eye on with her performance Saturday.

Like Castellano and Johnson, Booth has enjoyed a quick rise in the sport.

Last summer, she started doing CrossFit at The Fitness Place.

Soon, both her CrossFit coach at The Fitness Place, Brennen Jackson, and her coach at Kenai Central, Jeff Baker, were telling her she should be in powerlifting.

In early April in the Kenai Powerlifting Challenge at Kenai Central High School, in just her third powerlifting competition, Booth came up just 1 kilogram short of the American record in the squat.

After that performance, Booth had the record squarely in her sights for Saturday.

The problem is her sights moved. To be precise, a girl in Arizona bumped the record from 190 to 192 pounds.

That led to some nerves for Booth on Saturday.

“In the morning I was very shaky,” she said. “I felt super sick because I was so scared I was going to let myself and others down.

“I’d heard the record got broken, and at first I’d thought the girl squatted in the 200s. When I heard it was only a couple of pounds, I still had the record in my sight.”

The first of her three squats Saturday came at 176 pounds, and it went so well that Booth’s confidence soared. She still felt good after powering up 187 on her second attempt.

Then 194 went on the bar and Rob Schmidt, Alaska State Chair for USA Powerlifting and another coach for Booth, announced that she was going for a record to the crowd.

“It hit me again and I got really nervous,” Booth said.

But with her trademark ponytail flop and scream, Booth hoisted the record.

“When I was watching the video, everyone told me it looked easy,” Booth said. “It didn’t feel as easy as it looked.”

In addition to her coaches, Booth thanked training partners Johnson, Kenai Central senior Alyssa Herr, Dawson Baker and Mike Olsen for all of the help.

“I only started powerlifting last year, and for me to have an American record is mind-blowing and amazing,” Booth said. “I don’t want it to get to my head. I want to stay as humble as I can possibly be.

“I have such amazing coaches, friends and community.”

Booth said it was just as gratifying watching Herr nail a 264-pound deadlift she really wanted on Saturday.

When a coefficient is used to level all lifters, Booth was the second high school girl Saturday while Herr was third.

“Her deadlift was incredible to watch,” Booth said. “It was an emotional moment.”

Booth will keep up her training for four days a week, for two to three hours a day, to get ready for Raw Nationals in October in Pennsylvania.

This is where Booth has a shot to earn a worlds slot just like Johnson and Castellano.

In regards to worlds, Castellano and Johnson are still fundraising to try and make the trip all the way to Finland.

Those wishing to help Castellano can message “Cipriana Castellano” on Facebook for details how to donate through USA Powerlifting’s designated beneficiary form.

Johnson is seeking donations under at “Robin Goes To World Championship.”

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