Several state age group records fell Saturday at the Dena’ina Powerlifting Challenge at Kenai Central High School.
Of course, that is starting to become a regular theme for local athletes from Kenai Central and Soldotna high schools. Among the 14 individual records that were set Saturday on Cliff Massie Court, six of them belonged to local lifting studs.
In USA Powerlifting sanctioned events, there are three types of lifts — squat, bench and deadlift — and the total of those three marks form a fourth “total” category.
Cipriana Castellano — or simply, “C.C.” to her friends — erased the previous state bests in all four categories among women ages 18 and 19 and under 158 pounds. Castellano squatted 303 pounds, benched 159 and deadlifted 314, all totaling up to 775.5 pounds, beating the old state record by 120 pounds.
While the Kenai Central senior did not pull her personal bests Saturday, what made the performance impressive was the lack of training coming into the competition. Castellano has not trained since August after having her tonsils removed, and had been deer hunting for the previous two weeks on Montague Island.
“I just wanted to see where I was,” Castellano said. “I’m going to start training again in January.”
After rewriting the record books in the girls 16 to 17 age group division, Castellano has begun her assault on the older divisions after turning 18 on Nov. 5.
“The goal is to pretty much do the same and set more records at the state and national level,” she said.
Last summer in Salo, Finland, Castellano lifted at the 187-pound level, but had since dropped to about 140 pounds. The lifting phenom said she plans to be back to 163 by her next competition in January.
Rob Schmidt, the Alaska state chair for USA Powerlifting, said the rapid progression of weightlifting for Castellano since she was “discovered” by Kenai weightlifting coach Jeff Baker is unprecedented.
Baker recounted his first impression of Castellano when she was a student in his Kenai Central High weightlifting class. Baker said he started her off with a lighter load in the deadlift and continued adding weight until Castellano was pulling remarkable numbers and Baker refused to go further for safety reasons.
“She’s unbelievable,” Schmidt said.
Another Kenai senior that emerged on the state scene along with Castellano, Kelsey Booth, set records Saturday in the squat and deadlift for girls ages 16 to 17 and under 114 pounds. Booth squatted 203 pounds and deadlifted 237 pounds, a personal best, which was particularly pleasing to her as she had missed the record in her third attempt at the national meet last October.
“I’m extremely happy,” Booth said. “At (USA Powerlifting Raw) Nationals I benched (105 pounds), but outside of competition I benched (107), which is almost my body weight.”
Booth, who has been seriously powerlifting for only a year, said she had never squatted 200 pounds until Saturday, and that the rapid improvement has surprised even herself.
“That was my biggest goal so far,” she said. “It’s weird, because I look back at videos on Facebook of me getting a new PR, and I can do like, triple that now.”
In the women’s 45- to 49-year-old, under-114 pounds division, Karen Arnold of Anchorage set records in all four categories, with lifts of 170 pounds in the squat, 110 in the bench press and 203 in the deadlift. In the women’s 50- to 54-year-old, under-125 pounds division, Renee Rybak of Anchorage set state bests in all four categories, with new marks of 154 pounds in the squat, 110 in the bench and 303 in the deadlift.
Soldotna’s Donald Staton was another local raising the bar Saturday. Staton, who took home the gold among men, squatted 496 pounds, benched 352 and deadlifted 573 for a grand total of 1,419 pounds. All were personal bests for Staton.
“The main goal for me was to just make weight at 283 (pounds),” Staton said.
The 28-year-old New Hampshire native, who has lived in Soldotna since August, works out at The Fitness Place gym in Soldotna about three times a week, and has continued a lifestyle that has seen him compete in powerlifting for roughly five years.
With a bald head and bristly beard, Staton is a intimidating figure with an easygoing attitude, and at the Dena’ina competition, Staton said he was most happy with the deadlift, which he PR’d in competition. Outside of official competitions, Staton has pulled 600 pounds in the deadlift, 405 in the bench, 510 on squat.
“Just trying not to psyche myself out of it,” Staton answered when asked what his motivation was. “The nice thing was Rob (Schmidt) was pretty close with me working out at the gym, so I was kind of in a bit of competition with him. That was a good motivator.”