State high school powerlifting meet comes to Kenai Central

During the autumn cross-country season, central Peninsula sports fans had the chance to witness one of the nation’s top runners in Kenai Central senior Allie Ostrander.

Improbably, this Saturday at Kenai Central, sports fans have a chance to get a look at some homegrown, international-caliber powerlifting talent.

Kenai Central junior Cipriana Castellano and Soldotna sophomore Robin Johnson will headline the field at the first Alaska High School Powerlifting Championships.

Both lifters made their mark on the sport at the USA Powerlifting Raw National Championships in Aurora, Colorado, in late July.

At that meet, Castellano set American records with her opening lifts in each lift contested — squat, bench press and deadlift. She qualified for the International Powerlifting Association Raw Classics Championships in Finland in June 2015 and the Arnold Sports Festival in March 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.

At Raw Nationals, Johnson also qualified for the International Powerlifting Association Raw Classics Championships. She set American records in squat, bench and overall total.

Rob Schmidt, the Alaska state chairperson for USA Powerlifting, said both Castellano and Johnson will set international records when they get to international competition.

“There’s no exaggerating what those girls are doing,” Schmidt said. “They are global elite teenage female powerlifters.

“You could plop them down in Wisconsin or Texas or in the middle of Russia, where powerlifting and strength sports are part of the culture, and these two would still beat everybody.”

Castellano, Johnson and Soldotna senior Zach Hallford — who won’t be competing Saturday — are a big reason Kenai Central is hosting the state championships.

“Both Robin and CC were taught by Jeff Baker at Kenai Central,” Schmidt said. “He provided me with the inside support from a school necessary to put on a meet of this kind for the first time.”

Schmidt said there have been powerlifting competitions in Alaska for 30 years, but there has never been a high school championship.

With the huge state high school championships in Wisconsin and Texas floating in his head, Schmidt has been mulling over how to put on high school championships for five years now.

The powerlifting talent on the central Peninsula finally showed him the way.

As of midweek, there were 15 powerlifters signed up, mostly from the Peninsula, particularly Kenai Central.

Schmidt said he has talked to other state chairpersons and has heard 15 is a good number with which to start.

There are 10 girls and five boys signed up, which Schmidt partially attributes to the presence of Castellano and Johnson. He said the number of boys may be low due to apprehension of getting shown up by Castellano and Johnson. A big weekend on the prep wrestling scene, with all the Peninsula’s top wrestlers at the Peninsula Duals at Nikiski, also doesn’t help.

“The flip side is a lot of the competitors are friends with Robin and CC,” Schmidt said. “They’re excited with what they are doing and engaged in a sport that celebrates empowerment.

“A lot of girls are looking at that and saying, ‘I want to be strong too.’”

The meet will be in the Kenai Central gym and admittance is free. It is expected to last from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Schmidt also will be giving a powerlifting clinic at The Fitness Place at 5 p.m. Saturday. The cost is $25 for members and $50 for nonmembers. The clinic, which will cover squat, bench press and deadlift, is limited to 30 people and is already half full. Contact The Fitness Place to sign up.

Schmidt said the high school meet and the clinic are part of his effort to grow powerlifting in the area. Schmidt also will be coming back for an all-ages powerlifting meet in March.

“I hope by coming down twice a year over the next couple of years that I can develop the knowledge and expertise so the sport can sustain itself on the Kenai,” he said.

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