By GAVIN LAPAILLE
Gold Standard Sports Editor
If Fort Knox High School power lifting head coach Conrad Garcia has his way, spring break this year will be spent cleaning out room in the school’s trophy case for a few more entries.
The school’s power lifting team will set out to continue its recent dominance at the National Athlete Strength Association’s high school national championships this weekend. The Eagles will make the 12-hour drive to Oklahoma City to compete in NASA’s biggest meet of the season.
The Eagles have a history of doing remarkably well at the meet. Fort Knox has won overall team titles six of the last eight years, and will have six returning national champions this season.
“This team is better overall than any team I’ve ever had,” Garcia said. “I’ll never go on record and say we’re going to win it because anything can happen, but it’s going to take a good team to beat them.”
Four boys and 14 girls will compete for the Eagles across three different categories: unequipped power lifting, power sports and power press. In unequipped, athletes perform in the squat, bench press and dead lift, while the power press consists of power clean and bench press. Power sports will tests abilities in curl, bench press and dead lift.
While competitors are broken down into weight classes, a coefficiency rating at the end determines overall winners by taking the amount lifted across all events combined, divided by the lifter’s weight.
Championship belts are awarded to the top overall lifters for the entire meet based on the total number of entries in each event. Several of the lifters have set their sights on bringing back belts.
“We’ve been working out really hard for everything when we get there,” senior Sierra Williams said. “We want to see how much we can do so we can get the best lifts.”
The program has been in existence for nearly two decades, after Garcia wanted to get into coaching following his own career as a power lifter in the Army. He started out with just a boy’s team, but slowly the disparity started shifting towards the girls as the years went on. While the sport is not sanctioned in Kentucky, Garcia fields the only full girl’s team in Kentucky and both genders routinely impress at state and local meets.
The Eagles do their best to debunk the stereotypes associated with power lifting. Many of the girls take pride in showing off to their male counterparts how much they can lift.
“I like it when boys look at me and think I’m a power lifter,” sophomore Fabiola Martinez said. “It’s just different. For some of the girls, it’s not their thing. But for me it’s natural.”
The team has competed in meets at North Bullitt and Holy Cross this season, and will travel to Ohio for an open meet next month. For athletes new to the sport, the experience has been eye-opening.
“It’s more than just lifting,” senior D’Andre Mitchell said. “You have to lift the way the coaches want you to. At nationals, they want everything perfect. You have to make sure your hands are straight and keep your feet on the ground.”
For junior Haley Fluharty, experience at the national meet will come in handy. This will be her third year competing in Oklahoma City, and Fluharty is already a back-to-back national champion. She said competing at the meet is still very cool.
“When you go there they have platforms, and when they say your name, you’re the one everyone is focusing on,” Fluharty said. “It can be intimidating but it’s an adrenaline rush.”
Garcia said he’s proud of the way his assistant coaches and the school’s administration have supported him and the program over the years, and hopes to continue the team’s strong tradition this weekend.
“The success comes from how they’ve supported us,” Garcia said. “They didn’t have to. They’re with us in every aspect of the game.”