The clang and clatter of weighted barbells slamming to the ground is music to the ears of the Lehman Lobo girls powerlifting team.
With each echoed thud comes the gratification of another deadlift repetition in the books. The motivation that comes from that sound goes far beyond the driving heavy metal music blasting through speakers in the Lobos’ weight room.
Such noises aren’t uncommon for the Lobo girls powerlifting team, which seemingly makes it an annual ritual to prepare for the Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association state meet in Waco. Nine Lobos are currently readying for the 2018 meet, which will be held March 17.
Even amid a season filled with tumult and heartbreak, the Lady Lobo program has never waivered. Instead, group members have turned to each other for support as they look to collect more accolades and success for the program.
“It’s a big thing for us (to reach state), especially with everything that’s gone on,” said senior Mia Dolin, who is readying for her third straight state meet. “It keeps our heads up and keeps us going and keeps us together and to push each other.”
Lehman junior Mia Palomarez, who is also preparing for her third straight trip to state, said reaching Corpus Christi is an amazing accomplishment for the program.
But competing at the state meet is also an eye opening experience. While the Lobos are used to dominating meets they take part in during the course of the year, they discover it takes a little more effort to excel at state.
Nerves can play a factor for the athletes, but team members push themselves to perform at their highest level, Palomarez said.
How the team prepares for the state meet also changes. Palomarez said the goal is gradually to work harder as the season wears on, to the point where you peak at the state meet.
A little levity also goes a long way, too, especially for the veterans who know what to expect.
“We joke around about it,” Palomarez said. “We bring up past memories of state and it makes us better and makes us happy.”
Consistency, however, does have its challenges. Dolin said she tries to keep up with other powerlifters in order to find out what she needs to succeed. But the reward is the ability to set new personal bests and, if possible, bring home some hardware.
“Personally for me, it’s cool to see each year at state to see my totals improve,” Dolin said. “It’s awesome to see how much I improve each year.”
An additional aspect of team camaraderie is passing down lessons learned to the next generation.
Ashley Villanueva, a freshman at Lehman High, is preparing for her first-ever trip to the state meet. Villanueva, who had never participated in powerlifting prior to the 2018 campaign, will compete in the 95-pound weight class.
Villanueva said she never really envisioned herself competing in the sport. The perception of power lifters is “meaty people” with muscles, Villanueva said.
Despite her nervous disposition before her first meet, Villanueva realized it “wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”
“(My teammates) helped me out and gave me good tips,” Villanueva said.
That sisterhood within the Lobo girls powerlifting program extends far past the weight room. It was tested Feb. 14 when the team learned Jonathan Proud, who had served as the team’s powerlifting coach for the past two seasons, had been arrested for possession of child pornography.
The event shook the team, and the campus, to the core. While there was time to grieve and a time to process, the Lobos also had to ready themselves for the San Marcos powerlifting meet that weekend.
Amid the sadness and confusion, the Lobos exited the weekend with a first-place finish and a handful of personal achievements. Without the help from teammates, who provided a shoulder to cry on that weekend, Palomarez said she would have “bombed out” from the meet.
“It was us trying to prove that we just went through something very difficult, and that we could make it through and we’re strong enough to push through it,” Palomarez said.
Armed with an unbreakable bond, Dolin, Palomarez and Villanueva hope they, and their team, can maintain the success that’s made the program one of the best on campus.
“There are not many things that Lehman talks about,” Dolin said. “Recently, we were talking about how powerlifting has kicked the football guys out of the trophy case because we have so much. It’s definitely amazing.”