By Angel Tran (Sports Feature) –
A bar slams against the rack, and its dense sound echos throughout the room, across the muraled wall and full mirrors. A stopwatch beeps at the minute and feet shuffle on the floor to the next intensive workout. It smells like tires and stale metal, and sounds vibrate your ear, but the laughter here is warm, and empowering to everyone in the room.
There are 20 racks of weights on wooden and rubber platforms, all supported with high tech cameras and sensors, the over 50 dumbbells, and the amount of stretching devices, belts, jump ropes, and equipment isn’t even comparable to other schools. The weight room is almost always full of athletes, music, shouting, laughter, and there always seems to be milk or cheese in your hand.
Lincoln High is known for many of its extracurricular activities, but the newest, and rising program brought by two weightlifting coaches (Stewart Venable and James Watson) has gained the attention of many different potential sponsors and other teams. Kicking off their season on January 28th in Beatrice, the team of six ended with six medals–meaning that every athlete attending medaled. “Ryen Hansen and Alia [Cecil] both did great,” senior, Kyle Dawson said. Hansen ended the meet with a fourth place medal while Cecil ended third.
Powerlifting consists of three major lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift while Olympic lifting, which is often confused with powerlifting, can include a variety of different skills, techniques, and unique lifts. Powerlifting is a sport in which a lifter competes within their weight class, gender, and sometimes skill level during meets.
“We lift a lot, work hard in the weight room, just working as hard as I possibly could,” Dawson said. For Lincoln High, our lifters strive to practice 4-5 times a week in the weight room, with some incorporating other forms of fitness in between in order to be eligible to compete. “I didn’t hand select them, they hand selected me,” Venable said. “They decide to do this, they take the time to practice, and they come to me and ask to compete. They dedicate their training towards it, and they have a desire to compete, and that’s how I decide who can compete.”
This team didn’t appear from nothing though. Stewart Venable, who started teaching at Lincoln High in January of 2014, was previously a guard at the United States Penitentiary, in Leavenworth, Kansas. Venable, who has had many powerlifting teams before, was inspired to start a team here, “I felt like some of the athletes needed a goal or something for them to accomplish during the off-season of their sports,” Venable said. “I just want them to keep working out, to grow as athletes and continue being competitive.” Along with Venable is James Watson, “Coach Watson just gives you a lot of strength in your mind. Everything is mental with him, and you can always go up if your head is in it,” said senior Ian Hansen.
The powerlifting team did not end up competing during the fall because of a lack of funds, which continues to be a burden on the team itself.
“Honestly, these kids are putting in their own time and their own effort, and on top of that, they have to pay [for many things],” Venable said. “It was $30 for an entry fee at one meet, and they had to pay $40 per athlete. That’s a lot of money to ask a kid to come up with on their own that doesn’t have a job or comes from difficult circumstances. They use their own time, transportation, gas, and everything. The least I think we could do is to assist them in the entry fees for these meets,” Venable said. “If there’s some way that we could get some financial assistance for these athletes, that’s something that I would really be appreciative of.”
The overall cost to take a team of only six people costed $230 for the Beatrice meet, with each individual paying at least $30 themselves. On top of that, due to the time that the meet is held, athletes also need to pay for meals, snacks, beverages, etc. “I know the athletic budgets are tight and I don’t claim to know how it all works. Having said that it would be nice if we could help the athletes with their entry fees and possibly team shirts. Other schools have team vans, team lifting gear ( squat suits, bench shirts), as well as food for their teams, “ Coach, James Watson said. “I know that coach Venable and I have helped out of our own pockets. As far as becoming a funded program it’s like I said earlier, I have no idea what it takes to make that happen.”
The powerlifting team is set to take an exciting path this fall, while hopefully expanding their season by starting early in the fall in 2017. Both Venable and Watson are ready to take this team to a new level, “We want to get athletes who actually want to compete at a high level,” Watson said. “Any student or staff that would like to learn to squat, bench and deadlift should come down and try it out. You never know, you could become a powerlifter.”
**UPDATE: After bringing this issue to the attention of the administration, Principal Mark Larson has reached out to the program and is currently finding ways to help fund the powerlifting team.