MUSCODA - On Friday and Saturday, March 11-12, the Riverdale Chieftain powerlifters sent two student-athletes to La Crosse Central to compete in the Wisconsin High School Powerlifting Association (WHSPA) State Championships. Senior Tiara Thomas made her fourth appearance, while junior lifter Hannah Hanson competed for the third time.
On Friday night, spectators had the opportunity to watch state, national and even world champions compete in the strongest sport in the world. Hannah Hanson, lifting in the 123-pound division, was part of that contingency. Hannah finished the squat with a respectable lift of 220-pounds before missing a very close personal record at 240. She tied her season best in the bench press at 85-pounds. After lifting a personal record 285-pounds in the deadlift last month, Hannah tried her best to break that mark with an attempt at 290. However, it was just a bit more than she was ready for, thus settling for a strong lift of 270-pounds. Hannah finished with a 575 total.
“Hannah fell short of her 600+ goal, but still posted strong marks in all events,” said Coach Johnson. “She finished in the middle of the pack but when you consider the fact that she competed with what might have been the strongest field of lifters in the nation, Hannah did very well. What most people will never realize is that the top three finishers in her weight class would have placed in the top five in the male division. That is how strong our Wisconsin girls are. I can’t wait to see her compete in track and field this spring.”
Saturday morning came early as Tiara Thomas weighed in for her fourth and final state competition. Entering the tournament Tiara was the defending state champion, but was ranked second behind a strong competitor from Omro, Cirrena Stokes. In a field of 23 lifters, Tiara also had strong competition from Sophie Woychik of Independence and Miriam Hurula of Appleton, who also posted scores of 1000+ during the regular season.
In the squat, Tiara went 3-3 with a season best score of 445-pounds. However, Woychek would best that with a final lift of 450. Hurula, in her opening attempt at 465, defaulted with a rib injury. Stokes went on to miss her opening attempts at 450 and 465 but was successful in her final attempt at 475.
Entering the deadlift with a 30-pound deficit, Tiara again went 3-3 as she won the bench press with a personal best mark of 200-pounds, besting her competition by 25 pounds.
“All season long, 200 was a goal for Tiara,” Johnson said. “She hit that mark last month but we had no idea that it would be that easy today. I really think that she could have benched another 10 or 15 pounds.”
Tiara entered the deadlift down by five pounds to Stokes, but still 20 pounds ahead of Woychek, whom she had competed with all season long.
“The neat thing about powerlifting is the relationships that student-athletes develop with each other,” Johnson said. “I have had the opportunity to watch Tiara and Sophie compete for the past four years. They have been incredibly respectful of one another. It will certainly be a different atmosphere next year not being able to watch the two of them battle.”
The mantra throughout the day had been “Stick To The Plan” and the plan was to go 9-9. Tiara stuck to that plan for the first eight attempts and was perfect so far. With an 8-8 day, Tiara entered her final attempt at 435-pounds. In the third and final deadlift, contestants are allowed to make up to two changes.
“We knew that there was going to be some game-play in that final attempt,” Johnson said. “It’s a cat-and-mouse game. Stokes entered 410, while Tiara entered 435. We didn’t want to go before Sophie. We knew Sophie was strong in the deadlift but we felt confident against Stokes.”
As the round unfolded, Tiara changed her final attempt to 440 pounds, which would also officially break a two-year old state record, currently held by former Riverdale teammate Casey Bradley. However, Stokes also wanted a piece of that pie as she, too, entered an attempt of 400-pounds. The Independence lifter missed her attempt at 430 pounds, setting up the final showdown between Stokes and Thomas.
“We knew we would change to 440, but before I turned in our card, I asked Tiara if she wanted the state record or the state title,” Johnson said. “Her decision would make a difference in her final attempt…Go Heavy or Go Home, right? Her response was BOTH.”
Tiara moved up to 440 and pulled the weight, setting a new state record in the deadlift. However, she still had to wait for one more lift. Tiara would still hold the state mark, as she was the first to lift. But, if Stokes also pulled 440, she would score a higher total than Tiara by five pounds, giving her the state title. Stokes, however, was unable to pull the weight and Tiara finished the day with a perfect 9-for-9, a personal record total of 1085-pounds, a new state record deadlift 440-pounds, and her second state title.
The day wasn’t over. After the individual awards were over, Coach Johnson received news that Riverdale finished the team standings in 2nd place!
“At first, I thought someone was pulling my leg,” Johnson said. “You can’t compete as a team at this level with only two varsity competitors. However, many of the other division 3 teams did not place as high as Tiara did. What a nice surprise and a great way to end the day!”
Coach Johnson would like to end the season with a huge thank you to all of the student-athletes who competed this season. Their tremendous hard work made the winter an enjoyable one. Also, he thanks the Riverdale staff and the Riverdale alumni for their support and contributions throughout the season. And finally, a special thanks to the parents for their trust and support.
The date for the final end-of-season awards and ever-popular ice-cream social will be posted within the next few weeks.
Until then, Go Heavy, Then Go Home!