Alpine Middle School became the meet-up for over 120 powerlifters, lots of coaches, and grandstands full of supporters. A long day followed weigh-ins that began at 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 18. The three disciplines - squats, bench presses, and dead lifts - took hours to unfold.
“It’s boring but it’s also exhilarating,” Alpine junior Italia Anaya explained on Saturday. “I’m dependent on me. I don’t have to worry about anyone else. It’s personal, so you don’t have to compete with other people.”
She did have an eye on one girl however. For the second week in a row, Anaya finished second behind Nayelli Hinojos of Monahans in the 181 pound weight class. Anaya tried to top Hinojos' squat total of 290 pounds, but couldn’t complete a 300-pound lift in her third and final attempt.
“You see that you're this close, and you want to beat her,” Alpine Head Coach Lee Sanchez said. “You see them every week. You know each other. It’s like I tell the other coaches, I love watching them compete. When somebody else is lifting, they'll stop and they’ll see a record.”
Anaya was the only one of Alpine’s seven competitors on Saturday who considers powerlifting her number one sport. She wasn’t the only Buck to finish with a high total on Jan. 18, however.
Alex Natera had to wait for 40 minutes between each of his three lift attempts during the morning sessions. He eventually topped out with a 355-pound squat, and finished second in his weight class at the end of the day. His 385-pound dead lift tied for the best total in the 181-pound class and the one above that.
Sophomore Ryan Gooch took part in his first meet after playing varsity football in 2019. He lifted 400 pounds during his squat attempts, and eventually lifted 1,000 lbs. over the course of the day, finishing fourth in his class.
“There are really big guys here,” Gooch said. “I feel like I need to work harder in the weight room so I can try and compete with them. Last year I was close to Regionals, so this year I’d like to at least qualify.”
Senior Aaliyah Fierro finished second in the 114-pound weight class, just 30 pounds behind the top lifter from Pecos. It was her first meet of the season just days before she begins swinging and taking grounders at Lady Buck softball practice.
After struggling with small technical skills the week prior, Angelique Fox ran down a fifth place finish in her second powerlifting meet ever on Saturday. She reached Regionals in the 200-meter dash last spring for Alpine's track team, but faces new challenges in this sporting realm. Gooch, for instance, scratched on one of his lift attempts simply because there was a fold in his shirt.
With only three stations set up in the middle school gym, each lifter had a lot of time to kill. After their number was finally called, friends and opponents alike started wrapping knees as tightly as possible. Lifters waddled up to their weights where three judges, three spotters, and teammates watched them closely. If available, a coach yelled final instructions during those crucial seconds that end either in triumph or disappointment. More than once, the spotters - Alpine football players - saved the day when boys or girls couldn’t complete their heaviest attempts.
“We got a lot of compliments,” Sanchez said. “The cheerleaders ran the computer. I showed them once, and they went by themselves and did it and gave up their Saturday.”
While most totals tend to make sense when the weight of each competitor is considered, meets usually produce a few wild numbers that are almost beyond belief.
A giant boy from Pecos squatted 600 pounds. The highest deadlift of the day was 510 pounds by Christian Valles of Andrews, even though he only weighs 155 pounds.
“They’ve just learned over the years that this is how you get there,” Sanchez explained. “Good coaching, proper technique. Just having that drive to get better each week.”