When the Region II Division I women’s powerlifting meet takes place Saturday at Del Valle High School, Cleburne will be well-represented with seven Lady Jackets competing for a trip to state and a regional title.
The girls powerlifting program at Cleburne has blossomed over the past few years, building off and adding to the success from three-time state champion lifter Lexi Harris.
Cleburne Coach Jason Payne said he had 26 student-athletes compete in powerlifting for the Lady Jackets this season. And the seven regional qualifiers are the most the Lady Jackets have had in at least the past decade, if not longer.
“It’s been great,” Payne said. “It’s been good for the program and for the school to get that many more student-athletes competing. For a long time, people didn’t see powerlifting as all that interesting. Lexi kind of set the foundation with what she did and how she got a little notoriety and recognition for the school through powerlifting. Ever since then, we’re having more people coming out and getting involved. At the start of the year for our parent meeting, we had 50 people show up. We’re getting more and more participation each year. It’s been awesome.”
Payne said at the last-chance qualifier meet, Cleburne had 16 lifters that were “just right on the bubble” in earning a regional berth.
Last year, the Lady Jackets had four lifters qualify for the regional tournament, and at the conclusion of the 2019 season, Payne said the Lady Jackets’ goal for 2020 was not only to get more lifters to the regional meet but to win the regional title.
“... To be able to take seven, we up our chances [to win a regional title],” Payne said. “That was the goal of the returning lifters was go down there and compete as a team. That’s what these girls all sought out to do, so to take seven this year is awesome. These girls have worked really hard. Coach [Troy] Culwell is right there with me. Me and him sometimes look at each other like, ‘Man...’ because these girls are lifting far more now than what they started the season.”
Two of last year’s regional qualifiers are back in regionals for a second straight year in senior Jadyn Govea and sophomore Avery Tapia. Sophomore Maddie Hargrove, who qualified for regionals last year, will make the trip to Del Valle with the team as an alternate.
Govea, a state qualifier last year, enters the regional meet as the No. 1 seed in the 132 weight class. Govea’s top lifts of the year are 330 pounds in the squat, 205 pounds in the bench press, and 320 pounds in the dead lift for a total of 855 pounds.
“Jadyn has pretty much been first in the region from the start of the season,” Payne said. “Her first total, which was a regional-qualifying total, of 775 was at the first meet of the season here in Cleburne. She’s come a long way from last year and from the beginning of this season. She continues to do the little things right, and that’s what it boils down to. ... She’s put in a lot of hard work. She anticipates to go out in regionals and win it, and then go to state and place higher than she did last year when she finished 11th.”
Allison Perez is ranked fourth in the 165 division with lifts of 340 in the squat, 165 in the bench, and 300 in the dead lift for a total of 805 pounds. Tapia is fifth in the 198 division with lifts of 340 in the squat, a 210 bench, and a 275 dead lift for an 825 total.
Brittany Applegate and Mayte Martinez are each ranked eighth in their respective weight classes. In the 123 division, Applegate has lifts of 250 in the squat, a 145 bench, and a 280 dead lift for a total of 675 pounds. In the 198 division, the top lifts for Martinez this year are a 350 squat, a 140 bench, and a 325 dead lift for an 815 total.
Kyra Baker is seeded seventh in her division with top lifts of 225 squat, 90 bench, and 250 dead lift for a total of 565 pounds. And Audra Parsons is ninth in her division with lifts of 330 squat, 160 bench, and 305 dead lift for a total of 795 pounds.
Payne said the majority of Cleburne’s seven regional qualifiers are within 50 pounds of the automatic state-qualifying total.
“Brittany’s done really well,” Payne said. “This is her first year to ever compete in powerlifting as a senior. She’s right there on that line, about 50 pounds, for a qualifying total; 725 is her goal and her best lifts equal 675. It’s very attainable and she’s made a lot of strides the last two weeks.
“Perez is only 20 pounds from a qualifying total. Avery Tapia is 50 pounds away from a qualifying total, and she’s got a really good shot. Her bench press has improved the past three weeks and she’s got a chance to break the regional record in bench press in her weight class. Mayte has really come a long ways this season and she’s really close to getting her qualifying total. She’s had the most improvement pound for pound on all three lifts. Those girls have all got a chance along with Jadyn to possibly advance.”
While powerlifting is mostly considered an individual sport, Payne said the Lady Jackets are hoping to leave Del Valle on Saturday with a team trophy.
“As a team, they want to get a trophy and be first or second, so that’s on their radar,” Payne said. “It will take some strategic math skills with Coach Culwell and myself and both of our wives, Heather [Payne] and Monica [Culwell], who probably work as many hours as we do in it. For the team, the goal is to come home with a plaque. As individuals, when I told them where they all stood and with what they’ve done over the past two weeks, I think all those girls got it in their heads that it’s time to get after it and qualify. I think they all feel like they can and have the confidence and technique down to do it.”
Regardless of how things turn out Saturday, Payne said he’s proud to see the progress of Lady Jacket powerlifting, not only this season but over the past five to six years.
“I’m so pumped at how far they’ve come,” he said. “We’ve told them all where they need to be and none of them look at me like I’m delusional. They’ve done the weight in practice to qualify for state. We’re never going to do something in a meet that we’ve never attempted in a practice, so they’re ready to do what’s needed. It’s been a heck of a season. They’ve done really well.”