LHHS powerlifters ready to set the bar higher

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By LAUREN JETTE

For this year’s powerlifting season, the weight room has been full and there aren’t a whole lot of extra uniforms lying around.

And powerlifting coach Robert Draper is completely fine with that.

After taking over the program in 2007, Draper has slowly seen the number of athletes participating in the sport grow—to the point where he has a full girls team for probably the first time ever, and enough boys to make two teams.

“The first year I had it, we had six boys. Then we had seven, and so on and so forth. Then I had one girl out for about three years,” Draper said.

“Then the next thing you know, this year I have a full girls team when we’re all healthy and I have 27 boys signed up. I have enough where I have to tell them I can’t take you to this meet, I can only take you to this one and so on and so forth,” Draper said.

“You can only have 11 lifters on a team, so you can only take 11 (to each competition). That’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed about here in Liberty Hill is our numbers are so much bigger than they have been. It’s been tough to squeeze them all into uniforms, but that’s a good problem to have,” Draper said.

The Panthers powerlifting season kicks off Thursday, with the first competition of the season taking place at Florence.

Draper is excited to see how the girls compete, now that there is a full team.

“Here recently, we’ve kind of exploded on the girls side and I’m totally happy with that,” he said.

“The girls that are in here really understand the benefits of coming in and doing a strength conditioning and they really enjoy it, they enjoy the competition as well.”

While the goals for both teams are the same, the boys side stands a better chance with their numbers, while the girls will face tough competition for a top spot, Draper said.

“The goal for our team this season is obviously competition. Powerlifting is almost like track in the sense that you can win individual accolades and the team really won’t slow you down, but your accolades will help the team out,” he said.

“I’d like for our team to win every meet as a team, the meets that we go to. The boys side is very attainable. The girls side, I think it is, but I’ll be honest with you, Central Texas is kind of the girls hotbed of powerlifting believe it or not. You’ve got some strong girls teams in Lampasas, Gatesville and Burnet and we’ll get to see those guys.

“Last year, I had eight girls and we always competed with those teams and we kept coming in third. Hopefully this year, we’ll be able to knock one of those guys off and pop in there,” he added.

The girls will be led by senior lifters Allie Child and Kristin Cox, who have kind of spearheaded the girls movement in Liberty Hill powerlifiting.

“(Coach Draper) wanted me to come out and do it when I was a freshman and there were no girls,” Cox explained.

“We’ve just never really had (a team). The guys have had teams. I just didn’t want to be the only girl doing it, plus I was in softball and track, so it would be a third sport. Then my sophomore year, two girls did it, so I was like ‘at least they did it,’” Cox said.

“My junior year, my friend Allie said we should do it, because some other (track) throwers were doing it too. We ended up actually getting some other girls to join us and we almost have a full team now and before we’ve never really had one, so Allie and I, that’s been our goal to get girls to join.”

The biggest challenge the two have faced in recruiting girls is breaking the stereotype, Child said.

“Getting girls to think it’s not just a guy thing,” she said.

“Every girl we’ve recruited has returned and they are lifting this year.”

For junior football players Bailey Cloughly and Andy Becker, powerlifting is a sport that also helps when they are out on the field in the fall.

“With powerlifting, you have to push yourself to further lengths to find out how much you can do. With training, you have to do this many reps and this many sets,” Cloughly said.

“If you get tired, you have to learn how to push yourself. With football, it’s like in the fourth quarter, we’ve got to push ourselves as far as we can go to win this game, that game, state championship and go as far as we can,” Cloughly said.

“Really for us, it’s just about how far you can push yourself and be able to keep going and make yourself stronger and prove that you can do that no matter what size you are,” Becker said.

There’s also a sense of personal accomplishment after a workout or competition.

“It’s an awesome feeling to look at the squat rack and know that you just did 500, 550 pounds. You can look at that and say ‘I just did that’ and that’s just a great feeling,” Cloughly said. “Just seeing all of that weight on that bar and go up to a bigger guy and say ‘Hey, I can do that, how about you?’”

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