The 2015 USAPL Raw Nationals went down as the largest meet in USA Powerlifting history, with over 1,100 lifters, at least a dozen vendors and the biggest turnout of spectators from start to finish I have ever witnessed.  Twelve warm-up platforms readied the athletes to compete on one of the four competition platforms awaiting them in the venue.  With such a large turnout, many of us had doubts as to how the meet would be run. But from weigh-ins to drug testing, it was smooth sailing and none of the sessions went over their projected time by more than an hour.  The Penn State and Northeastern powerlifting teams did an absolutely fantastic job on the platforms with load changes under ten seconds and less than a minute between start commands for close to 10,000 lifts!

I was set to compete on Day 1 in the second (afternoon) session. Emotions and expectations were high as I prepared for the battle to come.  The energy in the room was like nothing I have experienced.  As soon as I walked into the Scranton Hilton & Conference center, I was, in typical USAPL form, welcomed with open arms. Fellow lifters greeted me with smiles, hugs and well wishes as I waited to weigh in (I was the very last in the 57 kg weight class).  As soon as I started to warm up the excitement grew; I felt like I was on fire.  I was in the third flight and after I went 3-for-3 on squats hitting  my final attempt at 142.5 kg, confidence was high. I had a 5 kg advantage over Andrea White heading into the bench press.

As I was warming up for the bench press, a moment of pride got the best of me as I left the warm up room. The last rep felt heavy and I should have told my coach, Bryce Lewis of The Strength Athlete. Instead, I kept quiet, took my planned opener at 77.5 kg and barely got it. I then proceeded to miss my 2nd and 3rd attempts at 80 kg. Missing these two attempts now put me behind Andrea by 7.5 kg.

After the disappointing bench press, it came down to deadlifts. Andrea and I both opened at 172.5 kg. Then Andrea and I pulled back to back American Records and kept the audience on their toes. The only way I could beat her was with my final deadlift. On my third attempt I took a big jump as I put 427.5 lbs on the bar.  With all of the explosiveness I could muster, the weight flew from the floor. Suddenly, I felt a small hitch and knew that I had lost. Still, I fought to finish, but lost my grip at lock out.  Crushed, I sank into Bryce’s arms as I was disappointed that I didn’t do what I came to do. Andrea White came to win putting up an epic 8-for-8 performance (she skipped her 3rd bench press).    

I made six of my nine lifts – my lowest percentage ever.  However, I ended with a personal best Wilks Total of 471.5. I maintained positive composure throughout and walked away with a hard fought silver medal.  All in all, I am thrilled with where I am and know what I need to do to get stronger. Andrea and I will continue to push each other for as long as we compete. As my good friend and role model, Jennifer Thompson (best bencher in the world, no big deal), said to me the night before competition, “The win is so much more rewarding when you really have to work for it.  It’s what keeps you coming back.  It’s what makes you work harder each year.” Well, I’m going to work harder.

Enough about me, this was a true National Championship! With representation from 48 states and the biggest turnout from California the USAPL has ever seen, it was the best of the best going head-to-head with the nation’s best powerlifters. Several upsets and three long-time champs were dethroned providing no shortage of drama. Many top lifters made their USAPL Nationals debut or return to USAPL competition. Jesse Norris showed up and finished with a  beastly total – opening his squat above the world record – to win his weight class.  We also found out Ray Williams, long time IPF lifter and SBD sponsored athlete, is not just a squatter anymore. On an off day, he finished with an American Record total and a smooth 799 lbs pull. The gentle giant is unbeatable! decided to make the trip to Scranton to attend their second ever Powerlifting meet, along with Caffeine and Kilos, Juggernaut and USIronClub to name a few.  A huge thank you to all of our sponsors for making this possible! USAPL is growing, thanks to the veteran athletes that have paved the way for the rest of us, a hard working organized board of directors, and a community that promotes an amazing camaraderie.  Raw Nationals was a tribute to all of the hard work and effort that goes into our sport.  Let’s keep this ball rolling!