Women's National Championships
January 24-26, 2003
Killeen TX, MD: Johnny Graham

Report By: Nectar Kirkiris
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I began the write up of last years Women's Nationals in Chicago by stating that it was the biggest Women's Nationals ever. With the tremendous growth in women's powerlifting over the past few years, I had a good feeling that it wouldn't keep that distinction for very long. With 131 total lifters, including 6 from Great Britain, 2003 Women's Nationals in Killeen, Texas now claims the distinction of being the biggest women's nationals ever.

Johnny Graham and his crew once again did a fantastic job of running such a large meet. It was reported that the spotters/loaders took an average of 12 seconds to load the bar between attempts. With the breakdown of the lifting schedule being such that 87 lifters had to be run through on Saturday, this pace is what kept the final session from having to pull their deadlifts after midnight. Lanette Lopez, as usual, ensured that the scorer's table ran smoothly and Terry Brady did a great job of announcing the entire weekend as well as giving a few shameless plugs for Women's Worlds, which is being run by his brother on May 23-25 in Chicago. Wade Hooper filled in the roll of platform manager for the final session and Kevin Stewart proved to be one of the most popular spotters in the history of our sport. USAPL may have to start a rule to only allow admittance to those 18 and over should Kevin come to another women's nationals to spot.

One of the aspects that make our sport so unique and special is the support that the athletes give one another. This was well displayed this weekend lifters such as Brad Gillingham, Pete Alaniz, Terry and Jan Todd, Joe McAuliffe, Kirk Karwoski, Gene Bell, Greg Page, Lance Slaughter, Shawn Cain, Walter Thomas, PJ Chovanec, Jon Magendie and Trey Cunningham, just to name a few, who all showed up to help coach and support the ladies.

GNC maintained a booth all weekend and was very generous in providing supplement samples, calendars, t-shirts and signed photos by Brad Gillingham. Big Brad spent most of his time working the GNC booth in between taking numerous pictures all weekend long and was very impressed with the quality of the lifting. You can view the full line of GNC products at http://www.gnc.com/

The venue was the same spacious Plaza Hotel ballroom that has been used by Johnny Graham in the past. This year included a change to the main stage by having the lifters enter the platform by means of a ramp on the right hand side rather then the traditional staircase in the back. Although there was some concern by the lifters and coaches about the ability of the lifters to get up and down the platform easily and safely, there did not appear to be any major issues with its use. There were always 1 or 2 people around the ramp to help the lifters enter and exit the platform and I observed several different techniques being used by coaches to assist their lifters. They were:
  • The Piggyback - coach carries lifter up ramp on back.
  • The Newlywed - coach carries lifter up ramp in arms.
  • The Wounded Solder - Lifter carried up ramp by putting arms around 2 coach's shoulders.
  • The bobsled - coach pushes lifter up ramp.
The only complaints about the venue I heard all weekend had to do with the scoreboards in the warm-up room not being updated very quickly and the lack of a score board for the audience. Both of these were quite minor and did not seem to distract from the experience of the lifters or those in attendance.

The lifting can be summed up as absolutely spectacular! Although there was some concern about the quality of the open team that would be fielded because of the absence of 2 women's world team mainstays, the quality and depth of women's powerlifting in USAPL made this a non-issue this year. 7 out of the 10 winners in this years women's nationals exceeded the totals of last years winners in the open class. This included both of the classes vacated by the former champions by a combined total of 78.5kgs.

With 87 lifters competing on Saturday in the 97lbs-148lbs classes, there was a heavy emphasis on the lighter weight classes with many new teens, juniors and masters making their national debut. Although the depth of the heavier weight classes was not as large, the quality was excellent, particularly in the UNL class.

The judging was fairly strict as to be expected from a national competition but it was also quite consistent in my opinion. There appeared to be quite a few red lights during the 1st session on Saturday for lifters not locking their knees at the end of their squats but, most lifters adapted quite nicely and the number of bombouts was consistent with other national competitions.

97lbs Class
Ann Leverett moved down from her usual 105lbs class and handily beat all competitors with a 7/9 performance. Considering that she bombed out last year, this was quite a turn around for this very talented lifter. Ann seems to lack confidence in her squatting ability and is always concerned about getting through this lift. Going 2/3 in her worst lift seem to really give her lots of confidence and momentum to finish up strong for a 340kg total for the open win, which she accomplished as a master lifter. Defending champion Erin Dickey seemed to be off this year and finished with a total that was 20kgs behind her winning total from last year, with the stiffer competition in this years class this was only good enough for 4th place. Keeping in mind that she is still a teen and has a tremendous support from Tod Miller and his group in Plainwell Michigan, you can be certain that this is a minor setback for her.

Cathy Solan and Donna Aliminosa posted solid performance in the master's classes to secure 1st place while Erin Crapo won her teen class in spite of struggling through her benches. Her coach, Jim Hart, was able to settle her down for a 3/3 performance in the deadlift for the win.

105lbs Class
Not even a pair of cool patriotic socks could prevent Jen Maile from having an off meet. Although her 407.5 kg was 102.5 kgs more than anyone else in her weight class, it was still 17.5kg off her 425 total record from last year in which she set 4 sub junior world records (squat, bench, deadlift and total) and the open total world record. She has set such incredible standards that you forget that she is still only a teenager and her winning total this year was still the second biggest ever in her weight class in the US. I imagine that she is holding that big(ger) total for women's worlds were she will be shooting to win her first of what I am sure will be many, IPF gold. It goes without saying that she won best teen lifter.

Judy Gedney opened with a world record squat, which she needed to repeat on her second attempt to satisfy the judges. She then went on to break her own record on her third attempt and then cruised to yet another national championship. Judy is one of the greatest powerlifters, (note that I am purposely leaving out female) ever produced by the USA. She is the closest equivalent to the great Japanese lifter, Hideki Inaba that we have. Being from Chicago, Judy's name constantly comes up in conversations with other local lifters when we are discussing great feats of strength that we have witnessed. She along with other great veteran female lifters like Ruth Welding and Andrea Sortwell have helped to lay the foundation for women's powerlifting by proving that women can be strong and competitive by still looking like women. I hope that all lifters but, in particular the younger women, take the time to learn the history of our sport so that they may understand the sacrifices made by veteran female powerlifters like Judy that allowed us to get to a women's nationals with 130+ lifters. It is truly an honor to watch such a great athlete perform.

114lbs Class
Multi time national champion Suzanne Hartwig easily won this class with a 425kg total, which is 10kgs more than last years winning total. She put in a solid 7/9 performance, which included her Fred Hatfieldesque hop before pulling her deadlifts. Heather Hampson, form Great Britain, showed a nice improvement in her lifting in spite of a 5/9 performance to finish with the third biggest total in this class. Maura Shuttleworth, Esq. beat her total from last year by almost 30kg to finish 3rd even though her training cycle was severely hampered by having to study for the bar exam, which she passed. I wanted to use her legal services while in Killeen but she politely informed me that stress due to the hotel bar being closed does not constitute mental trauma even if it is Superbowl Sunday.

The Juniors saw a tough battle between Jennie Hollier and Codi Grubbs. Jennie held on to 1st place when Codi could not get her last deadlift for the tie, which would have won this class on bodyweight for her.

Carly Nogle of Plainwell, MI had the 2nd biggest total in the 114's even though she is only a teen. She pulled an American teen record 160.5kd deadlift on her last attempt to give her a 380.5kg total.

123lbs Class
Michelle Amsden has owned the 123lbs class for the past few years. During this time she has showed tremendous improvement in her lifting by posting totals of 382.5, 412.5 and 437.5kg in the 2000-2003 Women's nationals. Even more impressive was the fact that she posted her 437.5kg total this year with only a 4/9 performance. The fact that she was visibly upset afterwards with these results just shows how high she sets her expectations. Look for Michelle to be in medal contention at Women's Worlds in Chicago.

Alayna Cunningham finished 1st in the Juniors by only 2.5kgs ahead of Sarah Newman while Andrea Motter and Alyssa Hitchcock were winners in the teen division.

Master lifter Ellen Stein posted the second biggest total in the 123's with 397.5kgs under the guidance of coach and world record bench press holder Joe McAuliffe. Ellen is as unique of an individual as you will find and left quite an impression with the girl working the GNC booth. Look for Ellen's bench to increase in the near future due to her shortening her range of motion with an added mechanical advantage. Lanette Lopez really struggled in the squat and could not get any passed to post a total. If you see how hard Lanette works at Johnny's meets its not surprising to see her have an off day on the platform. Everyone there appreciated all of her efforts during the competition but especially Johnny Graham who presented her with a nice award for her assistance throughout the years. The 123's also showcased the oldest competitor of the meet, Elma Beck. As a master 8 competitor Elma is an inspiration to us all and proves that our sport truly has no age limits.

132lbs Class
The 132lbs class was the deepest class of the competition. Only 17.5kgs separated 2nd through 4th place and it featured a rematch between defending national champion Bettina Altizer and former national champion Angie Overdeer. Bettina came through with a very strong 482.5kg total, which secured her first place by 35kgs over Jennifer Thompson. Unfortunately for the audience, the rematch between Bettina and Angie never materialized as Angie could not get any squats passed. Angie had a big 175kg opener in her deadlift, which would have allowed her to make things interesting should she have been able to position herself to pull for the win on her last attempt. But, this just was not her year and Bettina came very well prepared and extremely focused by going 8/9 for the win. Second place went to bench press record holder Jennifer Thompson who added 47.5kgs to last year's 400kg total. Jennifer is showing so much improvement in the squat and deadlift that she can no longer be called a bench press specialist. Michelle James who helps Jim Hart organize his national meets out in Nebraska competed in her first Nationals and was able to keep her nerves in check enough to post a nice total for her first nationals.

Julia Kaufman won the juniors with a 5/9 performance and Kala McCauley and Jan Merello were winners in the teen divisions.

The master's classes had many talented veteran lifters. Kate Dingle-Craig and Bettina Altizer were the winners but strong performance were also put up by master bench press world record holder Angela Simons and Brenda Howard, who was coached by her husband and 2003 Men's Nationals meet director Steve Howard.

148lbs Class
This class was the Priscilla Ribic show. Priscilla came into nationals with a lot of confidence and a brother with orange hair. This proved to be a lethal combination for her competition and the record book (all right, I'll admit that the fact that her brother had orange hair may not have been that big of a factor in her performance). She destroyed a 473lbs squat for a new American record and would have had a good chance for 500 on this day. She then also set a national record in the bench, which she held for all of 60 seconds until Christy Newman broke it. Then in a weird turn of events, she needed to make her last deadlift in order to complete the meet. Priscilla somehow lost her balance forward on her first deadlift, which forced her to repeat the attempt on her second. Now her 445lbs opener is a very safe attempt for her, yet unbelievably she rolled her left ankle while pulling her second attempt and had to put the bar down before completing the lift. All of a sudden she is faced with having to pull her last attempt on a bad ankle to post a total. Showing what champions are made of, she put the events of her first 2 attempts aside and easily pulled her 3rd deadlift for 3 white light to post a new national record total of 542.5kg. After the meet, her ankle seemed to be a little sore but, she wasn't overly concerned about it. What is even more remarkable about her performance is that she dropped a weight class this year and still increased her total by 66lbs! Rebecca Phelps and Christy Newman had a tight battle for 2nd and 3rd place with Rebecca edging Christy out by 7.5kgs.

Danielle Tieman won juniors with a solid 8/9 performance and Molly Dennany broke teen record after teen record on her way to a record total of 387.5kg.

Ruth Welding beat 4 other competitors to win the Master 2 class with a 390kg total on an 8/9 performance. If we were to write a history book on women's powerlifting, Ruth Welding would deserve to have her own chapter. As one of the original pioneers of women's powerlifting from back in her days as a track star at Purdue, Ruth has proved time and again that drug free women can compete and win at the highest levels in our sport. Her commitment and appreciation of powerlifting continues to be tremendous and we are all very thankful for everything that she does.

165lbs class
With Priscilla moving down to the 148's, the 165's were wide open and the final standing reflected this. The top 4 places were separated by 35kgs and first place went to teen Kimmie Everett who beat veteran master lifter Deanna Chaney on bodyweight with a 465kg total by way of an 8/9 performance. Kimmie's performance just shows how much new talent there is women's powerlifting in the US. Kimberly Walford came in 3rd despite needing 3 attempts to make he bench opener and Katie Ford struggled with a 4/9 performance which was still good enough for a 4th place finish in the open class and first in the Juniors. For as long as Katie has been lifting at Women's Nationals, it's easy to forget that she is still only a junior. As usual, she was coached by her dad, Jim Ford, who also helped coach Team Titan. Jim is one of the most knowledgeable people on the history of powerlifting that I have ever met. After the competition, he was showing me numerous pictures that he brought with him of great lifters from the past like George Frenn, Walter Thomas, Bill Kazmier and Gene Bell.

Margaret Mclean won the Master 2 class with a 355kg total going 5/9 and Regina Hackney set American master records in the squat and deadlift for a 308.5kg total in the Master 5 division. Regina has been receiving assistance with her training by such great lifters as Eddy Coan and Mike Danforth during the past year and her results once again prove the success of their training methods.

181lbs Class
Jessica Watkins came into nationals this year with a new weight class, new hairdo and the same old boyfriend. It's been my experience that the first 2 usually negate the last one. But, seeing how hard Mike O'Donnell works in the warm-up room and how good he is in getting Jessica ready to lift, I can see why she is going against conventional wisdom. Jessica's winning total of 570kgs was 50kgs more than here 1st place total last year in the 198's! She lifts with such intensity that you can't help but take notice. Her 528 3rd attempt squat was incredibly powerful but she cut it high a little and got it turned down. I'm sure she'll get it plus much more at worlds in Chicago in May. Adding in the fact that she struggled in the bench and had an off day deadlifting, it is truly astonishing to see how much improvement she has made in the past year and why she is the newest superstar in women's powerlifting in the US.

Maggen Millin won the Teen 3 class with a 407.5kg total and Malinda Baum posted a 387.5kg total going 8/9. I learned that Malinda works as a firefighter in Dallas even though she lives in Killeen. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Texas geography that is approximately a 2.5hour commute EACH WAY. How would you like to do that and then crawl under a bar to squat.

198lbs Class
The 198's were the most interesting and surprising classes of the competition. Disa Hatfield, the daughter of multi time IPF champion Fred "Dr. Squat" Hatfield, was the clear favorite to win this class. After making a very easy opening squat, she was having trouble finding her groove on her next 2 attempts. While appearing like she was going to grind up her 3rd squat with 210kgs, back spotter, Kevin Stewart, wrapped her up to end the attempt. This visibly upset Disa as it appear as though she was going to punch Kevin out afterwards. After a very brief conference by the judges and the jury, she was awarded a 4th attempt, which she also missed. In fairness to Kevin and as someone who has been in his position numerous times at nationals, I cannot fault him for making the decision to wrap Disa up and erring on the side of caution. The job of the spotter is to be there to protect the lifter and I always feel it is better to be cautious and allow the jury to award the lifter another attempt rather than sit back and allow a lifter to potentially hurt themselves. All of this drama proved to be a moot point however, as Disa was unable to get any of her benches passed. She looked like she was having a lot of trouble with foot movement and it is unclear how much the events that transpired during her squats contributed to these faults, which are usually the result of a lack of concentration. What is very clear however is the fact that the best is yet to come from Disa in powerlifting. I feel sorry for her competition at next year's nationals.

With Disa out of the meet, Lynda Schaeffer won first place in the open and master 1 class with a 417.5kg total that included 2 unsuccessful attempts at her own master deadlift records. Jennifer Busby of Great Britain really struggled with a 3/9 performance but still managed to get a 460kg total.

Tiffany Bayer and Verice Lewis turned in solid performances in the teen divisions and Kim Newman had a nearly flawless 8/9 performance in the Master 2 division. Kim has been a sponsor of several USAPL world teams in recent years and her company, Move-IT Fitness, has helped organize and run several very successful competitions.

UNL Class
The saying, "saving the best for last", is usually used as a cliché but this year it carried some real meaning. Liz Willet turned in one of the greatest performances in women's powerlifting history. She became only the 2nd women in the US to squat over 600 pounds and her 611lbs squat was the most ever by an American. As though that wasn't enough, she also became the first women ever to attempt a 600lbs squat and 400lbs bench in the same competition, when she missed the big bench on a 4th attempt. As though her performance in the squat wasn't impressive enough, she used a suit with straps so loose that they were practically falling off her shoulders and afterwards she told me that the 611 felt like nothing on her back. Everyone I talked to who witnessed this historic lift said that she had at least another 20lbs in her. As always, all of these lifts were done with a big smile across her face. Her 662.5kg total also broke her American record for total. Along with being the new Women's Committee Chair, which she took over from Sue Hallen this year, she is one of the nicest people I have ever met. If ever there is a lifter that deserves to be on the cover of every powerlifting magazine for her accomplishment, it is Liz.

There was the chance of seeing more history being made with the possibility of having 2 women attempt 400+lbs benches in the same competition. However, we would have to settle for only one on this day. After going 3 for 3 in the squat, which is her worst lift, Deb Ferrell, couldn't quite figure out her shirt and missed all 3 of her bench attempts with 165kgs. The last 2 she launched into the racks, which would seem like she was bringing the bar down too high on her chest. Deb slipped in the warm-up room while warming up for squats and went to the chiro several times to get some work on her right shoulder. Although she did not want to make any excuses about her performance, I wonder how much this incident affected what happened with her benching.

One of the best stories of the week involved Harriet Hall making her comeback from major shoulder reconstructive surgery. As a coach for the Masters bench press team, I was about 15 feet away from Harriet when she tore up her entire right shoulder on a 4th attempt world record last April down in Killeen. There was literally nothing holding her shoulder joint together after this attempt. Most lifters would be thinking of retiring after an injury like that but Harriet vowed to return even as she was having her bench shirt cut off of her and return she did. After squatting a national record 213kg on her third attempt, Harriet went 120, 135, 140kg in the bench at set a new American record in doing so. This was all done within 8 months of her injury and as a Master 3 lifter. This really can't be called a comeback because she never really left.

Veteran Sue Hallen was disappointed with her 4/9 performance and was particularly off with her best lift, the bench. Teen Shea Wallus showed nice improvement over last year and became the unofficial president of the Kevin Stewart fan club.

We were fortunate to once again have a team from Great Britain guest lifting at Women's Nationals. Great Britain is a nation that is known for its very strict gun control laws so being in Texas must have been quite an eye opening experience for them. We really enjoyed having them with us again this year and we look forward to seeing them this May at Women's Worlds in Chicago.

The overall improvement in the totals that the women are producing each year is absolutely astounding. This is reflected in the improvement in team placing at IPF competitions for the sub-juniors, juniors, open and master lifters. Several of the ladies have an excellent chance of winning IPF gold in the open class this year, which has never happened in the USAPL. Since Women's Worlds is being held in Chicago on May 23-25, this is a great opportunity for the powerlifting community to come out and support our ladies as they go against the best in the world. Let us all continue the momentum we have and help them bring home the gold in May.
A few Contest Photos, thanks to Priscilla Ribic

...and some from Christy Newman

Results Legend
Open: Can be any age.               Junior: up to 23 (Dec 31)
M1: Master 40-44                    T1: Teen 14-15
M2: Master 45-49                    T2: Teen 16-17
M3: Master 50-54                    T3: Teen 18-19
M4: Master 55-59                    Teen: 14-19 (exact age unknown)
M5: Master 60-64                    Collegiate: Age unknown
M6: Master 65-69                    SM: Submaster 35-39
M7: Master 70+                      
Master: 40+ (exact age unknown)

Junior Varsity: Age unknown (entered as Teen on Database)
Varsity: Age unknown (entered as Collegiate on Database)
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