Photos by Mark Yoder
“You Lift Like a Girl!” “Why, thank you!” This could be the newest slogan on the walls of the Ricky Matter Strength and Conditioning Center thanks to the Bluffton Powerlifting Squad. The girls squad, comprised of four high school and two junior high athletes, combined with two boys competitors, recently finished very well in the Regional Qualifier Meet held in Kenton and is beginning to make a name for themselves.
The team is under the supervision of Weight Room Supervisor, Kelly Prichard. Using workouts and advice from fellow Weight Room Supervisor Brice Little, Prichard oversees three lifting sessions per week for the Powerlifting team, working closely with the girls. The athletes on the Powerlifting team do not participate in winter varsity sports through the high school but Prichard says various team coaches are fully behind the workouts. “Spring coaches have been excited to see the players get after it throughout the winter and increase their strength and agility. We have been blessed with a great facility and it is great to see the building used as much as possible.” The team uses a Nebraska Workout Program throughout the week in preparation for their meets and gets together on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays after school lets out.
This year’s squad is the creation of an evolving use of the Matter Center. Prichard, who double majored in college in Athletic Training and Eduction, is in her third year as Weight Room Supervisor and laid out the history of the team. “Two years ago, athletes would come work out in a sport specific setting. Last year, we introduced Open Lifting hours for anyone to come lift, whether or not they were involved with a certain sport. McKenna Renecker and Kylee Barnett especially showed promise with the start of an organized lifting regimen. A large number of boys and girls took part in the 2012 Regional meet and Renecker, Joey Bertka, Andrew Spallinger, David Emans and Matthew Spallinger lifted in the State Meet. Two weeks later, Renecker won her first meet and really started to gain confidence.
The 2013 squad consists of six girls and two boys with great results so far. In their most recent action, the Regional Qualifier, senior McKenna Renecker and freshman Hannah Conley each won their respective weight classes. The competition has three parts: Bench Press, Squat and Dead Lift. The max weight in each event is then totaled for each lifter, resulting in the participant’s total score. When the dust settled in Kenton, Renecker had defeated last year’s state champion, South Central’s Tiana Morris, by 25 pounds in totals. Conley easily won her class by 115 pounds. Gabby Sneary also competed for the Pirates, finishing third in her class but just 25 pounds back of the winner. Darby Prichard and Abi Roob, both junior highers, competed as well but were at a bit of a disadvantage, competing against high school lifters. Joey Bertka took fifth in his class for the boys and Andrew Spallinger was eleventh. Megan Dulle is also on the team but was not able to take part in the Regional Meet due to an injury. Eighth grader Alex Roob will be competing for the girls squad in upcoming meets as well.
Currently the team is not a varsity sport, nor even a club sport, but that doesn’t mean the squad is flying under the radar. Prichard said, “The Bluffton administration and Athletic Director has been very supportive of our team. They have made sure we are stocked with supplies and allowed for open hours to make this possible.” Prichard went on to say, “This is the ultimate way for me to work with kids and athletics. We are able to work with different sports and teams and affect players on many fronts.” Prichard and Little design specific workouts for each sport while they are in season. “These are whole body workouts that improve not only strength, but also agility, balance and coordination.” Prichard has been involved in fitness and athletics for years, stretching back to her involvement with the 1996 State Champion Lima Senior football team. “As a trainer, I helped lead summer aerobic workouts for the team. We met three mornings a week before practices and worked on agility and balance using aerobics, hip hop and even some line dancing.” Prichard held various aerobics certifications in college and has been teach aerobics for close to 25 years and lifting the last 8. She truly enjoys the time spent in the Matter Center working with the kids. Kelly is a mother of four children, Shelby (21), Bailey (17), Darby (12) and Lucas (9) and is married to Pat Prichard who teaches Industrial Tech at Bluffton and coaches football at Ohio Northern.
The team is looking forward to their next two meets at Bradford on March 2 and then the State Meet held in Kenton on March 9 to close out their season. The Bradford meet will be a benchmark test as their squad features 30 girls and will push the Pirate Powerlifters. “Our girls maxes will be right up there where they need to be to place well. Bradford was at the Regional Meet and we did fine against them. It is good for us to see what is out there and be challenged.”
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Teams: Athletic Boosters