The Alaska high school of less than 600 students that already houses a Nike Cross Nationals champion could also be home to a powerlifter with international records by Friday evening.
Kenai Central junior Cipriana Castellano will compete at the Arnold USA Powerlifting Championships on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. The event is part of the Arnold Sports Festival.
The event will be the first chance that Castellano, 17, has had to set international records since her meteoric rise began with a powerlifting competition in February 2014.
She said there is a big difference between what she and Kenai Central senior Allie Ostrander, the Nike Cross Nationals champion, are doing.
“Cross-country is a lot more recognizable and people understand it,” Castellano said. “People think that I’m in bodybuilding and that I’m onstage posing, and not lifting weights.
“People are always telling me, ‘You look so great up there.’ I have to tell them, ‘It’s not a bodybuilding contest. I’m not there to look good.’”
Just like Ostrander’s task is to cover five kilometers as quickly as possible, Castellano’s goal is to put up as much weight as possible in the squat, bench press and deadlift.
And she could be on the verge of doing that better than anyone in the world at her age and weight class.
She already has all the American Raw records in USA Powerlifting for 16- to 17-year-old girls 185 pounds and under. Raw records mean no special equipment is used to aid the lifts.
Castellano also stamped herself as a star by even qualifying for the Arnolds. She was one of two teens girls to qualify at the Raw National Championships in July 2014. She qualified due to her high Wilks total, which is a formula used to compare powerlifters of different weights.
At the Arnolds, Castellano, the daughter of Alisha Flieger and stepdad Joseph Brown of Sterling, will move down a weight class and compete at under 158 pounds.
“I didn’t just do it for powerlifting,” Castellano said. “I also have prom at the end of March.”
Castellano said she lost the weight with the blessing of her coach, Rob Schmidt.
“After awhile, it does mess with your strength and brings it down, so you have to be smart about losing weight,” she said. “The goal is to keep most of the strength. I’ve lost some on the squat and deadlift, but the bench has shot up.”
Castellano was spending four days a week in the gym before going down to three days the past three weeks. She said with workouts of over four hours, the main trick to losing weight was not feeling like she could eat whatever she wanted.
For women ages 16 to 17 and under 158 pounds, all the records are world standards. That means they are set at weights nobody has been able to hit yet.
In the squat, the standard is 330 pounds. Castellano said she hit 369 at the state fair meet this summer. American records couldn’t be set at that meet, so her American record is 358 pounds.
She said she thinks she has retained enough strength with the weight loss to hit the world standard.
In the bench press, the world standard is 198 pounds. Her best in competition is 204 pounds, while her American record is at 176 pounds.
Castellano said she is confident in the bench press because she recently repped 195 pounds twice.
In the deadlift, the international standard is 363 pounds. Castellano’s American record is 396 pounds, and she has hit 419 in competition.
The international standard for the three-lift total is 871 pounds. Castellano’s American record for a three-lift total is 931 pounds.
If she goes through her lifting program as planned, she will break the three-lift standard in her second deadlift, which is contested after the squat and bench press.
“I think it’s cool and exciting,” said Castellano, who will travel to Ohio with her mother and be joined at the event by Schmidt. “It’s not something everyone gets to experience.
“I’m trying not to let it go to my head and I’m there to have fun.”
Castellano said it also will be fun to get together with the other powerlifters.
“They’re like family, or at least outside of competition they’re like family,” she said.