It’s not all about the weight plates at the end of the barbell.
Each member of the New Trier power lifting program knows that.
“Our coach [Jim Davis] always encourages us to do small things for others, when we’re not working out or competing,” junior Maisie Reardon said at the Illinois High School Power Lifting Association State Championships at New Trier’s Winnetka campus on May 6.
“He often asks us, ‘What did you do for somebody this week?’ ”
Reardon held a door open for a boy on crutches during a school day.
But the injured boy probably considered it a big deal.
“[Davis] focuses on our character,” said senior Yesol An, who intends to major in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois. “Our power lifting club members are supportive of each other, and I feel this sense of community when I’m around them and when I’m competing with them.”
Everybody affiliated with New Trier Power Lifting was thrilled for An at the state meet. She set four (the maximum) state records — squat (260 pounds), bench press (145), deadlift (300) and total pounds (705) — in her weight class and earned Good Athlete Project all-state recognition. The Good Athlete Project is a nonprofit that helps people realize their potential through athletics, concentrating on outreach, leadership training and research.
Those who made all-state honors had demonstrated outstanding athletic prowess and a significant commitment to community.
“Great; Yesol’s great,” said Davis, also a football coach and strength and conditioning coordinator at New Trier. “She’s an example of someone who developed character through lifting. An essential element of lifting is delayed gratification — come to work every day, work hard every day and know the desired result will come later. You need a certain mindset, a patient and determined one, and when you have it in power lifting, you grow as an individual because of it.”
The Good Athlete Project Power Lifter of the Year award went to New Trier senior Zach Shonfeld, who could not compete as a power lifter last year due to a torn ACL he had suffered in soccer. The 5-foot-6 Shonfeld — bound for Northwestern University — nearly lifted what would have been a personal-best 415 pounds in the deadlift at state. He settled for an effort of 395 pounds, to go with his squat (285) and bench (180) results in the 132-pound class.
“The atmosphere here is incredible,” Shonfeld said, referring to the 200 competitors, eight platforms and the enthusiasm generated by a microphone-toting Davis, who constantly walked briskly and shouted out results as he emceed the six-hour event in the school’s main gym. “[Davis] is such a motivator, always emphasizing service and safety. He doesn’t just want us to be good athletes; he also wants all of us to strive to be good people.”
More than a year ago, a New Trier rower wanted Reardon — also a rower — to give power lifting a try. Reardon worked out with the lifters for only a week and then suddenly found herself at a meet in … Oklahoma City.
A national meet, no less.
“I used to get very nervous before a meet, and I’d freak out before every lift,” recalled Reardon, who recorded personal bests of 235 pounds (deadlift) and 85 (bench press) at state. “Now I’m not so scared to do things now.
“I have less fear and more confidence.”
New Trier took runner-up honors to Plainfield South in the boys team segment of the state meet; NT’s girls also finished second (behind Stagg).
New Trier’s Bella Mendes, like An, topped her weight class at state, while NT’s Tayyaba Ali and Liz Wei silvered in their respective weight divisions. The boys state champion in the 114-pound class was New Trier’s Seth Babbitt, and teammate Dara Safe captured the title at 132 pounds. New Trier Chamberlain Coffee finished second at 242 pounds.
“I talk a lot of about de-stigmatism,” Davis said. “Power lifting, to many, is considered a blue-collar activity. Well, here we are, doing something blue-collar in a mostly white-collar community. You know what I’d really like to do? Get rid of the talk about collars and focus only on the positive impact lifting can have on boys and girls.
“I came to this activity from football, and what I like about it is the fact that weather is never a factor in it. You also never have to worry about a ball bouncing funny and having that determine the outcome of a competition. Our lifters show up every day and work hard every day. Along the way, they’re learning about nutrition, good sleeping habits and doing good things for others.”