Panthers head to Abilene for State Powerlifting Meet


By Keith Sparks

Only two Panther powerlifters remain as weight rooms across the state are being used to prepare for the Texas High School Powerlifting Association’s State Meet.

Justin Montgomery and Payton Melchor, both seniors, are looking to end their high school careers on a high note by setting personal records at the Taylor County Expo Center in Abilene.

Both Montgomery and Melchor took first in their respective weight classes at the Regional Meet, qualifying them to compete on the biggest stage Saturday.

Saturday’s State Meet will be nothing new to Montgomery, who went to the State Powerlifting Meet as a sophomore two years ago. Having been there before, Montgomery feels like he has an advantage that most of his competition won’t have.

“I know that you need to still play itself and not try to go for anything too crazy that you can’t get right off the bat, so you don’t bottom out,” Montgomery said. “I’ve seen that happen too many times.”

For Melchor, Saturday will be his first time competing on such a stage, but he feels like he has an advantage, as well, being teammates with Montgomery.

“It’s nice to have someone else that’s been there before and kind of knows a little bit about it,” Melchor said. “That’s probably the one person I would want going to State with me is Justin.”

Montgomery is appreciative of his teammate’s appearance at State, as well, explaining that it isn’t nearly as fun when you have to go alone.

“It’s definitely cool,” Montgomery said. “It kind of sucks if you’re the only one for something this big.”

After making it to State as a sophomore, Montgomery wasn’t able to qualify as a junior, which motivated him to work even harder as a senior.

“Honestly, just all-around working harder,” Montgomery said of how he improved from one year to the next in order to make State. “I’ve been a little bit more dedicated this year.”

The key for Melchor, he said, was realizing that he could no longer jump weight classes without exponentially improving upon his strength.

“Each year, I went up a weight class, so just realizing that I’m too heavy to compete with these kids and not lifting enough, so it’s just been a lot of extra lifting and spending time running,” Melchor said.

With only a few days left before the State Meet, Montgomery said he’s backed off of the weight room a little bit, lifting lighter weights in order to save his energy for Saturday. Last week, however, he hit the weight room as hard as he ever has.

“I was lifting heavier the last couple weeks, then this week doing lighter so I don’t tax myself too much for the State Meet,” Montgomery said. “I want to be able to give everything.”

Montgomery has been an animal on the bench press so far this season, often placing first, overall, in that category. His goal for Saturday is to bench press 460 pounds, 15 heavier than his current personal record. On the squat rack, he’s hoping to lift up to 740 pounds, 65 pounds higher than his personal record of 675. On the deadlift, his least favorite lift, Montgomery said, “I’ll just see what I can do.”

In a lower weight class than Montgomery, Melchor will look to improve upon his personal records at State, as well. His goals are to squat 425, 50 pounds more than his personal record of 375, bench 225, 10 pounds more than his personal record of 215, and deadlift 450, 15 pounds heavier than his personal record of 435.

While each of the Panther powerlifters have personal weight goals, Melchor said his main goal is to place in the top five, regardless of how much weight he ends up lifting.

“I guess it’s just determination to end up placing within the top five,” Melchor said.

As far as being given the opportunity to go out on top as a senior, it isn’t lost on Melchor, although he wishes he’d made an appearance at State sooner.

“It’s pretty cool. I wish I had done it sooner, but I’m going to go out swinging,” Melchor said. “I’m going to give it everything I can.”

Melchor said his family will be in attendance on Saturday, and they might be joined by his military recruiter in the crowd, which he said could give him some extra motivation.

“It’ll be amazing,” Melchor said. “There’ll be a lot of people, and I’m going to try to impress them.”

With all of that going on, however, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s important, so Melchor said he’ll remain as calm as possible by “just watching the other people’s lifts and not letting them get ahead of you.

The State Meet will take place Saturday at the Taylor County Expo Center in Abilene. The meet will begin at 8:45 a.m.