Powerlifting is not new to high schools in Louisiana, but the sport takes on a new persona this weekend.

After a four-year process that included two years as a pilot program, powerlifting is officially a Louisiana High School Athletic Association sport with its own LHSAA championships that begin Thursday.

“This is the 30th year for powerlifting in Louisiana,” Episcopal coach Steve Baronich said. “But it’s our first year as an LHSAA sport, so this is a big deal for all of us involved.

“And I think the competitions in just about every division will be close. We had 10 state records set during the regional meets last month. We’re expecting more records to fall this weekend.”

West Monroe High is the site of the first LHSAA/State Powerlifting Meet that begins Thursday with competition for girls and boys Division IV-Class 2A and Division V-1A and below. Action begins at 11 a.m. for Division IV and 5 p.m. for Division V.

Competition for Division III-3A (11 a.m.) and Division II-4A (5 p.m.) will be Friday. Division I-5A competition is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.

The meet features boys and girls entrants in a variety of weight classes. Boys start at 114.5 pounds and range up to super heavyweight, which is 276 pounds or more. Girls competition starts with a 97-pound weight class and goes up to a super heavyweight class for competitors 221 pounds or more.

A total of 740 lifters are expected to compete. Each lifter must complete a squat, a bench press and a deadlift. The totals are tallied together.

Lutcher’s China Storks, who competes in the 198.3-pound class is the only girl entering the meet with a total lift of more than 1,000 pounds. Storks’ entry mark is 1,035 pounds. West Monroe super heavyweight Macklyn England (1,710 pounds) has the biggest total lift among the boys. The list of boys competitors with total lifts of more than 1,000 pounds starts in the 132.3-pound division.

Previously, the Louisiana Powerlifting Association conducted state meets. Some of the same teams that dominated those championships are expected to excel at the first LHSAA meet.

Slidell-based Pope John Paul II is the premeet favorite in the Division IV boys and girls competitions. Delhi and Catholic-Pointe Coupee are expected to battle for the Division V titles Thursday.

Competition should be close in three of the groups competing Friday. Church Point and Farmerville are rated as the premeet boys favorites in Division III, while Port Allen and Farmerville are expected to be top Division III girls teams. A premeet tally showed just three points separating the PAHS and Farmerville girls.

A premeet tally also shows Peabody to be a five-point favorite over another central Louisiana rival, Tioga, in Division II boys. Lutcher is a big favorite to win the Division II girls crown.

Covington-based St. Paul’s and tourney host West Monroe are expected to battle for the Division I boys title. WMHS and Slidell-based Northshore are the Division I girls favorites.

“The thing I like about this is you don’t have to weigh 200 pounds to compete,” Baronich said. “There’s a level for everybody to compete on.

“As more people find out about it, we’re hoping to get more schools and individuals involved. It’s a great sport.”