LUTCHER — When China Storks enters the weight room at Lutcher High School, it’s not to get in shape.
Although health and exercise certainly are beneficial, for Storks the weight room is about challenging herself to see what she can do.
The 5-foot-2 sophomore can do plenty.
Storks is a two-time state champion, a national champion and a world champion powerlifter. That’s not a weightlifter, although she does lift weights.
Not an Olympic nor an NCAA-sanctioned sport, powerlifting (which combines the squat, bench press, and deadlift) evolved from weightlifting. Both are all about strength and technique.
And Storks has both.
Competing in the 185-pound weight class, Storks can deadlift 400 pounds, squat 465 pounds and bench press 215 pounds. She won her first state title as a seventh-grader and repeated as an eighth-grader.
Her coaches, Kelly and Jon Magendie, a husband and wife team who met and fell in love in the weight room at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, decided it was best to keep her out of last year’s state competition during her freshman year. But she still qualified for regionals and nationals.
Storks is the current national champion with a squat of 396.75 pounds, a bench press of 209.25 and a deadlift of 440.75. After the national championship, she went on to the world championships in Poland, where she won what she hopes to win even more world titles.
Competing as a sub-junior at the worlds, Storks lifted a total of 1,069.24 pounds (485 kilograms) and was the only lifter in her class to deadlift 200 kilograms (440.925 pounds). She also won a silver medal in the squat (190kg).
“Overall it was a great experience,” Storks said of her trip to Poland. “There were (people from) over 20 countries there. I got to meet a whole bunch of new people.”
Storks might be an unlikely candidate to be such a competitor. She said she was severely bow-legged in her adolescence and never imagined herself to be an athlete.
“My sister had gotten into (powerlifting), but I never thought I could do it,” Storks said. “It hurt to walk for a long time. But by about the seventh grade, my legs had started to straighten out. This is my fourth year, and I really enjoy it. When I go in the gym, I can leave everything else outside. I come here to make myself better.”
“Pound for pound, China is one of the strongest we have,” said Kelly Magendie, who has seen the sport boom at Lutcher.
“Since she took over the team in 2006, the Lady Bulldogs have won six state championships and seen her roster grow to about 30 girls.
But recruiting students for the team isn’t easy.
“You see girls in the halls you’d like to ask or you think would be good at it, but you don’t want to go ask them,” Magendie said. “It’s all word of mouth. Most of our girls don’t play other sports. They’re not your typical athlete.”
“It challenges you,” said Storks who, with her teammates is gearing up for the regionals to be held Feb. 23 at Covington High School, then the state championships to be held March 14 at West Monroe. “You go in the gym and you see what you want to do and work for it and you do it.”