ALEXANDRIA — Lutcher captured its 13th girls state powerlifting crown while Port Allen successfully defended its state title and Ascension Catholic earned its fifth straight title in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Powerlifting meet Friday at Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria Friday
Holden claimed a runner-up finish as 452 girls competed in the meet.
All categories of schools competed Friday, making it the largest day of the three-day meet, with team state champions crowned in each of five divisions along with individual champions in each weight class and category. In Division I, Pineville won with Covington as runner-up. Abbeville was runner-up in Division III.
“The pressure is real,” said a relieved Kelly Magendie, coach of 13-time champion Lutcher. “The points don’t do justice to how it feels.” Magendie noted this year’s team didn’t have any seniors, which means all of her lifters should be back to make a run No. 14 next year.
Brian Bizette, coach of Port Allen, was relieved to get a one-point win to repeat as the Division IV champion and take home the school’s seventh championship. “A win is a win,” he said. “We were supposed to lose this meet. I told the girls we had to bow up. I couldn’t ask for a better team or group of girls.”
While Ascension Catholic claimed its fifth straight title in Division V, it was the first for head coach Janelle Leonard. “I’m so proud — they have been working hard for many years,” she said. "It could have been intimidating for a new coach taking over a four-time champ, but Leonard said that wasn’t an issue. “Honestly, I didn’t feel pressure because the girls were so self-disciplined I knew they would do what they needed to do. I just enjoyed the ride.”
In addition to the team champions, outstanding lifters were recognized in each division. They are:
• Division I, Best Lightweight Jelynn Cheatham of Slidell; Best Heavyweight Sara Demattie of Natchitoches Central
• Division II, Best Lightweight Quamecca Stafford of Lutcher; Best Heavyweight Shay Naquin of Lutcher
• Division III, Best Lightweight Chasity Jones of Peabody Magnet; Best Heavyweight Sumaria Brooks of Peabody Magnet
• Division IV, Best Lightweight Kailey Brookshire of Calvary Baptist; Best Heavyweight Janee Kovacs of PFTSTA
• Division V, Best Lightweight Kaidynce Manuel of St. Edmund; Best Heavyweight Lauren Politz of Holden
Eddie Bonine, LHSAA executive director, said he was pleased with the competition and how smoothly the event ran. The day got off to a bit of a slow start when a fire alarm forced a brief evacuation of the facility after the first round of lifting. The alarm was triggered when smoke from an outside fish fryer drifted in near an exit. The students, used to school fire drills, seemed unfazed by the brief break in the action.
“Anytime you get student-athletes involved, it’s good,” Bonine said of the sport’s growing popularity. “When you see little tiny girls who weigh 100 pounds lifting 200 pounds, it’s amazing.”
One example of big power in a tiny body is Jelynn Cheatham, a junior at Slidell. The 95-pound powerlifter set two state records, eclipsing her own marks set in regional competition earlier this year. She set the record for squat in the 97-pound division with a lift of 300 pounds and then followed that up with a record-setting lift of 145 pounds in the bench press.
“I’ve been lifting for three years,” she said. “Coach went to my mom and said I would be a perfect fit, and so I joined the team.”
As for what she enjoys most about powerlifting, she said it is “coming together with the team and having fun lifting.”
Bonine noted powerlifting is the fastest-growing sport in the LHSAA. Chris Ledoux, one of the judges for the event and a former coach in Opelousas, said the sport offers opportunities for students who don’t fit the mold of other sports, such as football or basketball. “It gives the little tiny guys something to compete in,” he said.
“As a coach, I never had a kid quit after they went to a meet,” he said, adding the competition and training can be addictive. “You can see yourself getting stronger.”
Corey Bourg of Ellender agreed. Bourg was involved in the sport in its infancy, when it was a just a club sport. “Getting recognized by the LHSAA was huge,” he said regarding the sport’s rapid rise in popularity. “The kids all hear the stories – they get to represent their school and have fun. It’s competition, but it’s not kid vs. kid, it’s kid vs. weight.”
The championship meet concludes Saturday with Division I (5A schools), Division IV (2A schools) and Division V (1A and A, B and C schools) boy’s teams competing.