Connally High School senior Emily Martinez (above) and teammates Kenzee Gerik and Alexandrea Nall will compete in Division 2 of the Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association state meet in Corpus Christi.

In one way or another, strength is required to excel in almost every sport. Athletes use physical power and mental fortitude as tools to triumph over an opponent. One of the best ways to cultivate that strength is through powerlifting.

The Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association state meet will be held Friday and Saturday at the American Bank Center Arena in Corpus Christi.

Seventeen Central Texas schools are sending a combined 42 athletes to compete. The competition begins at 8 a.m. Friday.

Connally had three athletes qualify in Division 2 — sophomores Kenzee Gerik and Alexandrea Nall, and senior Emily Martinez.

They all play at least one other sport. Gerik participates in basketball, softball and track, and serves on the school’s cheerleading squad.

Connally powerlifting coach Daniel Kelley said he is proud of how hard his athletes work, especially since they have to train early in the morning so they don’t interfere with other practices.

“All of my girls come early in the mornings to get their workouts in,” Kelley said. “We conflict with cheerleading, basketball, softball, track all kinds of stuff. All that stuff goes on. So we get up and get our workout in because they may have to go do their other stuff after school.”

Kelley said he is thankful for how the girls balance their multiple activities but still say dedicated to his program.

“It means a ton,” Kelley said. “They show up, they don’t miss, they’re dedicated and they’re ready to work when we get there in the morning. We lift at 6:15, so they’re up. Then they go on about their day. If they have a late night before, they’re there and that’s pretty awesome.

“It’s not easy for a kid to do, especially with all the other things they’re doing. So they’re very dedicated and I’m thankful for that”

Powerlifting isn’t usually a high school athlete’s only sport. But what they gain from lifting often benefits them in their other endeavors.

Kelley said he believes a key benefit from powerlifting is preventing injuries.

“I think it’s extremely important,” Kelley said. “Other sports test a lot of different things in the body. If you’re playing basketball, it’s obviously more of an endurance type deal. But if you’re stronger it will help prevent injuries. A lot of people associate lifting just with football but it goes hand it hand with other sports, like baseball, as well.

“A lot of your upper body strength, stuff like that, it goes back to being a little stronger and being able to maintain your strength to not have as many injuries overall. I’ve found you have all that if you have a good weight program and kids buy into it. It’s something else they can compete in as well.”

With powerlifting, an athlete competes as an individual and is often trying to beat his or her personal best.

Kelley said weightlifting can teach athletes to believe in themselves and accomplish goals when no one is around to help.

“Anytime you can compete, it’s going to help you in life,” Kelley said. “With weightlifting, you’re kind of there with yourself, it’s you against the weight. That’s kind of how it’s going to be when these kids get their job. It’s going to be up to them to perform.

“Of course, you have help along the way, but not always. Sometimes you have to figure it out on your own.”

All-star games

Connally junior basketball star Tontyana Sanders is one of 23 players selected for the Texas Girls Coaches Association Honors all-star game July 12 in Arlington.

The game features the top 24 juniors across Texas in classes 1A to 4A. Sanders will play on the red team.

Sanders played in 39 games this season and averaged 23 points, 21 rebounds and two blocks.

She was named District 17-4A Offensive Player of the Year, TABC Class 4A Region III All-Region and TABC Class 4A All-State. Sanders helped lead the Lady Cadets to the best season in school history at 34-5.

Her teammate, senior Ahlana Lofton, was selected to play in the 16th annual Maypearl Texas Roundup all-star game.

The game features 24 elite boys and girls from 1A-4A schools.

Selected players are chosen from hundreds on nominations statewide. The game will be played in the Maypearl varsity gym on Saturday.

The girls' game start at 2:30 p.m., followed by the boys' game at 4:30.

Lofton will play on the white team.

Waco High soccer

The Waco High School soccer program had a memorable year.

The varsity soccer team defended its district championship. The junior varisty team went undefeated in district and outscored opponents 88-14. The freshmen team also was undefeated, scoring 111 goals.

The varsity team finished 15-2 overall and 8-1 in district. Next is the playoffs.

Waco High Kris Kahler said his team is primed to make a playoff run.

Kahler said the team’s motto is that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, and that’s how they’re approaching the playoffs.

“We have seven games left until the state championship is ours,” Kahler said. “I tell the guys, ‘Your next game we could be asking for your jersey or we could be setting up for your next opponent. But it all goes into how you play.’

“But that’s out of my control, the refs' control even the other team's control. It’s up to us.

“We’ve got the tools, the hunger, focus and we have a lot of kids who were frustrated with the way we went out last year. I think we’re going to be a good team to beat and it’s going to be a lot of fun in the playoffs.”

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