Navy Powerlifting Competes at Nationals
POSTED ON: Tuesday, April 16, 2019 2:34 PM by LCDR Timothy Barry
Twenty athletes from the Naval Academy’s Powerlifting Team spent the last several days testing their strength against 42 other colleges and universities at the USAPL Collegiate National Championships, hosted by Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. The competition was broken into weight classes, where each lifter’s best of three attempts from each exercise (Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift) were totaled and tallied.
On Sunday, in the Women’s 72kg Division, MIDN 1/C Katie Salerni totaled 540kg (1190.5 lbs) to move beyond the reach of her competitors and secure the National Championship. Despite suffering flu-like symptoms, including a fever, in the preceding days, Salerni was determined to compete and win. To begin the meet, the judges red-lighted Salerni’s first Squat attempt of 190kg (419 lbs) due to a depth violation. Undeterred, Salerni selected 200kg (440 lbs) for her second attempt only to be given a “no lift” again based on a commands violation. With her planned progression in jeopardy, Salerni selected 200kg again for her third and last Squat attempt. Her handlers, 3/C Elijah Ellerman and 3/C Paul Deist, giving Salerni twizzlers and water, with a bit of salt and apple cider vinegar, offered words of encouragement, “You got this.” With ice on her neck and head to keep the fever at bay, Salerni went into the zone. Knowing a miss here would put her out of competition and end her National Champ dreams, MIDN Salerni very deliberately made her third Squat well below parallel to earn the white lights and a collective sigh of relief from the team. The setback on Squats allowed Midland University’s Alexandra Chavez within striking distance, putting the pressure on Salerni to perform in the next event.
With only a 5kg lead, MIDN Salerni moved into her comfort zone, the Bench Press. Salerni is a notorious bencher and has been invited to compete at the IPF Bench World Championships later this year. Her opening Bench Press attempt of 137.5kg (303 lbs) was only 2.5kg more than Chavez, however where Salerni easily made a successful lift, Chavez faltered. Salerni broke the American Junior Bench Press record with her second successful attempt at 145kg (320 lbs), pulling further away as Chavez again missed her attempt at 135kg. One record wasn’t enough, however, and MIDN Salerni set a new American Junior Bench record and new American Collegiate Bench record by smoothly pressing 152.5kg (336 lbs) for her final Bench Press. The crowd erupted as the white lights came on and the MC encouraged a smiling and elated Salerni to stand on the bench as he raised her hand in triumph!
Midland’s Chavez stayed in the meet with a successful third bench attempt of 135kg, but was now trailing by 22.5kg. Salerni isn’t one to rest on her laurels however, especially knowing that much can change during Deadlift. Both Salerni and Chavez successfully made conservative first attempt Deadlifts at 170kg (375 lbs) and 165kg (364 lbs) respectively. Striving to close the gap with a 20kg increase, Chavez bit off more than she could chew and failed her second attempt, effectively ending her run at first place. Salerni continued to add to her total with a 182.5kg (402 lbs) second Deadlift, staving off the close clutch of competitors to vie for second and third place. Prior to her third attempt, 3/C Ellerman quipped, “She’s already got it in the bag, this is essentially just a victory lap.” And that it was, as MIDN Salerni took the stage one last time, relaxed and confident, yet determined and pulled her final Deadlift of 187.5kg (413 lbs). “Thank you guys so much,” she told her handlers, Deist and Ellerman, “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
3/C Elijah Ellerman had a strong showing as well in the Men’s 83kg Division on Saturday. By posting a 277.5kg (612 lbs) best Squat and Deadlift and a best Bench Press at 167.5kg (369 lbs), Ellerman totaled 722.5kg (1593 lbs) to clinch 5th place in the Division and earn All-American status. Also in the 83kg Division, first-year lifter 3/C Jackson Franco just missed the podium and All-American status by earning 6th place, while second-year veteran 3/C Paul Deist placed 8th overall.
Other notable rookie performances were posted by 3/C Alysia Santacruz, who placed 7th in the Women’s 57kg Division, and the freakishly strong 4/C Hayden Tidball, who earned a 9th place finish in Men’s 105kg Division. Rounding out the top-10 finishers was 4-year veteran and Team Captain 1/C Ethan Durham in the 93kg Division, who successfully performed the heaviest squat in USNA Powerlifting history at 312.5kg (689 lbs)! Overall, Durham was pleased with the team’s performance. “We do our best to try to place and to keep improving. It takes a lot of work to make All-Americans and National Champions.” When asked what advice he’d give to next year’s Captain regarding planning for Nationals and the travel logistics, Durham said “Remember to delegate. You can’t do it all and you have to realize that you have to compete too. Just chill at Nats.”
The team came away with a 9th place finish overall in a field of 43 schools.