Connally junior Alexandrea Nall has gone to the Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association state meet every year she’s been in high school. She was happy just to qualify her first two years, and ended up placing seventh in both meets.

But she set a loftier goal for her junior year. Nall went into the 2017 state meet with the goal of finishing in the top five, and she did.

Competing in the 148-pound weight class, Nall finished in second place with a total of 910. She performed a 365-pound squat, put up 165 pounds on the bench press and finished with a 395-pound deadlift.

“I just immediately started crying because it was such a great feeling,” Nall said. “I was really nervous because the most I’ve ever done at a meet is 380. So this past Sunday I was trying to see what I could get at my house and I got 390 pretty easy. But then I tried 400 and I couldn’t do it. So I was kind of iffy and I didn’t know if I could do it or not.”

Nall’s jubilation was due to her breaking a personal record. She didn’t yet know that she placed second. But Connally head powerlifting coach Daniel Kelley did the math beforehand and knew as soon as she got the green light.

“It was awesome,” Kelley said. “Just because I know she’s worked really, really hard. So for her to get a medal for the first time when she’s a junior, that’s special.”

Nall didn’t have too much time to celebrate as she had to leave to prepare for a softball game against the Robinson Rockettes just three hours after her performance at the state meet.

Connally had three other athletes in the meet and Kelley said he is proud of how they all competed.

“I’m pleased with the way they competed, they finished, and a lot of teams don’t finish because they have kids who bomb out and they’re not able to finish the meet,” Kelley said. “I tell my kids to make sure they finish because you never know what’s going to happen with the weights.”

Kelley said that most of his girls got their best lifts ever during the meet. He said that’s when you want to max out and it’s just as satisfying watching one of his athletes get a personal record as it is watching them medal.

“Just to see them finish at the state meet is awesome,” he said. “That’s when you want to peak, that’s when you want to do your best. And if they can do it when everything is on the line is great. This is the best in the state of Texas.”

Senior Brittany Carter participated in her first 4A meet today as she transferred from Bosqueville to Connally this past year. She finished in third place in 2A last year but set different expectations for herself in 4A.

“Moving from a 2A to a 4A I didn’t expect to come beat every girl but I expected to do my best,” Carter said. “And I (got a personal record) in deadlift, I did what I wanted to do in bench and squat. I fell like I accomplished what I set out to do.”

Carter competes in the 165 pound class and squatted 310 pounds, benched 150 and did a 370 pound deadlift. She plans on attending McLennan Community College as a powerlifter next year and is grateful for the experience of the state meet before she starts collegiate competition.

“Deadlift felt good, getting a new personal record,” Carter said. “It felt great just lifting something and getting it up easy on top of that. So this is great practice and a great experience before my first year at college.”

Senior Casey Rice set a personal record on her squat (270), bench press (155) and tied her record for deadlift (285) to place 13th overall in the 123 pound weight class.

“Well I knew I wasn’t really set for first,” Rice said.” So my goal was really to beat the bar, beat myself, not worry about the competition and just do more than I’ve ever done.”

Rice made it to state her sophomore year but wasn’t able to compete her junior year after rotating both hips out of place in opposite directions. It took six months for her doctors to manually realign her hips so Friday’s meet was more about proving she could do it.

It was very humbling, Rice said. “Especially coming back from a pretty big injury and being able to get back where I was before the injury, and then further. I still have back problems and stuff like that. But I fought through it and ended up increasing.”

Rice said she had to work harder than before just to get back to state. But setting new personal records was validation that her hard work paid off.

“I’ve had a problem with depth on squats,” Rice said. “One meet I bombed out because my body wouldn’t allow me to go low enough. So we changed the entire way I squat so increasing on that max made me happy. Deadlift was actually my fault and I ended up skyrocketing there.”

Connally junior Kenzee Gerik also competed. She squatted 220, benched 110 and deadlifted 240 for a total of 570 and seventh place in the 97-pound weight class.

It was an excellent day for Gerik, and she placed higher than she did at the state meet last year. But she set a goal of placing in the top 5 with a total of 600 pounds and she wasn’t about to let herself off the hook for not reaching it.

“I did OK, but I had a lot of mistakes,” Gerik said. “I was a little upset but I knew I had a another year to do better. I plan on coming back next year and winning.”

Kelley loves that drive and passion in his athletes. He has been coaching powerlifting for six years and has never had a single girl who didn’t also play another sport. Because of scheduling conflicts, the girls train at 6 a.m. and go to their other practices after school. Many of them even go play games right after a meet.

“They’re committed and that means a lot to me,” Kelley said. “And the coaching staff I have, and everyone involved, because they work hard. And that means a lot to me because, to me, that’s everything. You have to work hard for everything you get.”