Powerlifting has been in my life since I was seven and it was quite some time before I realized it wasn’t a “normal” sport. “Normal” as in “mainstream”, at every high school, on TV, everyone knows the sport. I grew up with a powerlifter who later became my coach. Lifting weights and working towards a competition was normal and exciting.
My coach, Bruce, wouldn’t let me start training until I was in ninth grade. I wanted to start sooner. I had been going to contests for years; carrying a full backpack to keep me busy from early morning into late, late evening. One year I even had my paper dolls with me. This was back in the day when the contests were run on the progressive loading system. Those of you, who have experienced this type of system, know it is not “progressive”. Still, I loved the sport. The chalk, the adrenaline, the yelling, cheering and lights flashing on with each lift. Wow – I was hooked!
My sophomore year I was in a contest every four-five weeks, Dec. to March. At sixteen I learned how to quickly transition from a teen goofing around to a dead-on serious competitor. Crucial when competing at women’s nationals my junior year. Came away as the teen and open champion in my weight class, setting state and national level records in all lifts and total. Senior year I competed in the Wisconsin boys state high school championships and place fourth out of seven. First girl to compete with the boys as an equal competitor and was able to contribute team points. There were several coaches who contested my entry and my coach simply said “Let her lift and see how she does.”
During high school I learned how to keep track of the lifting on the platform and scoring. Made all of the posters to track the lifts during the contests. This was before overhead projectors and computers. Having this background is good to know when technology fails during competition. Two years out of high school I was running the scorekeeping alongside my friend, Sue Sullivan. It was Sue who taught me the importance of being organized, professional and attentive to detail.
I received my referee certification from Brother Bennett in 1987 and shortly after, transitioned from the ADFPA to USA Powerlifting. For being a successful competitor with no use of performance enhancing additives of any type, the transition was natural. After many years at the state level I decided it was time to test for national level certification in the USAPL. I passed and enjoyed officiating at many national contests. The most enjoyable have been those right in my home state.
Another aspect of the sport that I am very proud of is being a part of the Wisconsin High School Powerlifting Association (WHSPA). What started as a grass roots organization years ago with Bruce Sullivan and John Malin, has grown into a four region association. This association, complete with a full board and executive committee ensures there is clean, safe, and competitive powerlifting available to Wisconsin teenagers. I have had the pleasure to work with Bruce Sullivan, Joe Lewis, Dennis Smits, Jeff Schillinger and other committee members for many years now. We have seen hundreds, even thousands of lifters in these competitions. The state high school championship is a sanctioned USAPL competition, allowing so many of our competitors to go on to national and world level competition. Continuation of this association will help thousands more teenagers. Many will go on to compete at the open, collegiate and junior levels. Looking forward to seeing more young lifters coming up, including my son, who started lifting last year as a freshman.
Are there challenging aspects to this sport? Absolutely. Lack of sufficient training facilities, lack of chalk tolerance within many gyms, learning how to train, nailing down technique, making the decision to go gear or stay raw, finding a training partner or team, learning the rules on the platform and at the start of competition day are all variables. Are there good aspects to the sport? Absolutely! More than I can list. Seeing a lifter return to the platform after having major health issues is absolutely inspiring. I will share testimonials received from fellow members for you to enjoy. It is the members who make this association strong.
I’ve maintained the standards and rules of the USAPL since its formation and plan to do so for many more years. I look forward to your feedback on how to grow the sport of powerlifting, allowing even more people to experience what many of us have already enjoyed.
USA Powerlifting State Chair – Wisconsin