Kenai hosts 1st high school state powerlifting event

A small group of organizers and competitors have built the first Alaska High School Powerlifting Championships.

Now that they’ve built it, they expect more to come.

The Saturday championships at Kenai Central attracted 14 competitors — four boys and 10 girls. Twelve of the lifters were from Kenai Central, while one was from Soldotna and the other was from Bethel.

But if anyone was disappointed by the turnout, they definitely weren’t showing it.

Rob Schmidt, the Alaska state chairperson for USA Powerlifting, said the meet was a huge step forward for the sport in Alaska.

“I was not able to get anyone to come down from Anchorage, but just having this meet opened the door for me to get into the office of a PE teacher or football coach of almost all the Anchorage schools,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said that now, instead of telling teachers and coaches he’d like to have a state high school meet, he can point to one that has already taken place.

For that, Schmidt credits Jeff Baker, the PE instructor at Kenai Central who brought a powerlifting focus to the school six years ago.

“He was my entry point into the high schools,” Schmidt said of Baker.

Both Schmidt and Baker think the sport will grow because everybody attending Saturday’s meet had a good time. The enthusiasm and camaraderie was so contagious that Megan Kissee, who was just planning to watch the meet, came out of the crowd and decided to compete.

The crowd wasn’t huge, but it was supportive of all lifters.

“It’s a feature of the sport in Alaska,” Schmidt said. “It’s very supportive. Yelling, hooting and hollering is encouraged.”

The crowd assisted in several big lifts during the day, including a meet-closing 474-pound deadlift by Kenai Central junior Tobias Randall.

Randall had a rocky start to his day. He needed to gain 6 pounds to get into his desired weight class, and made himself ill drinking water to gain weight.

But then he set a personal record with a 451-pound deadlift, and decided to go for 474.

“I just wanted to sell out and give it everything I had,” he said.

Randall said he appreciated what Baker has done for powerlifting.

“It’s a great way to be active and getting in shape,” Randall said. “And the competition was really fun.”

Two of Baker’s big discoveries are Kenai Central junior Cipriana Castellano and Soldotna sophomore Robin Johnson.

Castellano, who set an all-ages state record in her weight class with a 352-pound squat, had the highest Wilks total for the girls, while Johnson was second and Sophie Swope of Barrow was third. The Wilks total allows powerlifters to be compared despite different weights.

The top three boys in Wilks totals were Chase Logan, Jace Baker and Randall.

Johnson, who set a new personal record with 319.5 pounds in the back squat, also said she sees powerlifting getting more popular.

“All over the country, and even the world, there’s a lot more support for being fit,” she said. “And it’s not just about being skinny. There’s a lot more people wanting to be strong.”

That includes Natalia Chavez in the 104-pound weight class and Kelsey Booth at 114. Schmidt said nobody in Alaska had competed at those weight classes before, meaning Chavez’s 138 squat, 83 bench and 165 deadlift and Booth’s 165 squat, 83 bench and 193 deadlift were all open and age class state records.

“It was nice to finally get those weight classes filled out,” Schmidt said.

Johnson said she tried to get some people from SoHi to enter, but came up short. However, she did say some from the school attended the competition, making it more likely they would compete in the future.

Johnson also said she saw many from the central Peninsula CrossFit community in the crowd, pointing to a good turnout when Schmidt returns to the Peninsula in March for an all-ages competition.

Judging from his experience working with powerlifters, Baker also expects more at that March competition. He said many initially may shy away from competition due to worrying about how much they can lift, but that fades away once they start training for a competition.

“Nobody cares how much they lift,” he said. “They just want to lift more than they did before.

“If they train and put in the work, they’ll lift more in the next competition than they did in the previous competition.”

Alaska High School
Powerlifting Championships

Saturday at Kenai Central

Top lifts in each category (squat, bench, deadlift)

Boys — Chase Logan (385, 209, 407); Jace Baker (341, 193, 385); Dawson Baker (215, 154, 315); Tobias Randall (286, 160, 474).

Girls — Natalia Chavez (138, 83, 165); Kelsey Booth (165, 83, 193); Kathleen Smith (160, 88, 176); Mackenzie Lindeman (110, 105, 215); Alyssa Herr (154, 77, 231); Sophie Swope (242, 88, 275); Megan Kissee (176, 110, 237); Nyqolle Van De Grift (160, 100, 204); Cipriana Castellano (352, 181, 391); Robin Johnson (319, 171, 320).

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