CANTON — During the past three years, Canton girls powerlifting has gone from upstart to state power. These days, the Lady Eagles inject fear simply by showing up to meets.
“It’s the best team I’ve been a part of, no matter what sport,” coach Howard Bell said. “When you walk into a gym, you can just see the other kids and their intimidation.”
Last weekend, Canton earned its fourth consecutive trip to state with an overwhelming performance at regionals — one that will likely be remembered awhile. The two-time defending state champions advanced a program-high 17 lifters to the Class 3A state meet, scheduled for March 17 in Corpus Christi.
The program has grown leaps and bounds since claiming its first regional title in 2009.
“We started out really small and only had a handful of girls,” senior Arrin Brown said. “Now it’s like we have three teams. The other programs aren’t as big as us.”
During the run, Canton has won 25 meets in a row and is 9-0 on the season. The Lady Eagles captured eight of 11 divisions at regionals and scored a staggering 69 points, which bested second-place Palestine by 51 points.
Seventeen lifters advanced past regionals, but only 11 scores will be used at state. No other 3A program came close to qualifying that many, Bell said.
Canton advanced 12 to state a year ago.
“I train them like football players and they are willing to work towards their goals,” Bell said. “They are willing to hurt their bodies. They will work until it hurts and they can’t move the next day.”
On a typical mid-week workout, Canton will do five sets of five squats (80 percent of max weight), five sets of four dead lifts (85 percent), three sets of 20 toe lifts, three sets of 10 jump squats, three sets of 19 lunges and three sets of 20 on abs.
Individuals who earned regional titles were Raegan Fields (oustanding lifter on the light platform), Lexi Callan (outstanding squat on the heavy platform), Shelbi Jeanes (outstanding squat on the light platform), Rebekah Bratcher, Sierra Zielke, Stephanie Brown, Jaci Williams and Arrin Brown.
The other qualifiers include Sydney Stewart, Kenzee Sanders, Leslie Foutch, Marci Whittington, Cadye Childress, Kara Ott, Bre Rose, Courtney Mays and Brandi Leaks.
The Lady Eagles hope their best is still before them.
“The goal for us down (at state) is to hopefully do our personal bests and hopefully bring home another state championship,” Arrin Brown said.
In addition to Canton, other area schools advanced lifters to state from the Canton regional meet. For the first time, all regionals were broken up into three divisions — Division I (5A and 4A), Division II (3A) and Division III (2A and 1A).
The following is a list of lifters who finished either first or second at regionals. It doesn’t include all the state qualifiers.
? In Division I, Pine Tree’s Claudia Aguilar and Alex Jehle; and Jacksonville’s McKenzie Morton.
? In Division II, Lindale’s Shayla Hill; Rains’ Crystal Garcia; Brownsboro’s Krystilyn Woods; and Palestine’s McKenzie Sanders, Donna Davids and Traleisha Garrett.
? In Division III, Troup’s Gabby Sewell, Savannah Martin and Deandrea Jiles; Cushing’s Kaitlin Link, White Oak’s Brianne Mathews; Winnsboro’s Katrina Nittmo and Abigail Ramirez; and Leverett’s Chapel’s Tiphany Baker.
The 1A, 2A and 5A meets are set for March 16, while the 3A and 4A meets are on March 17.