Only one person fits on a weight bench or inside a squat rack, but that person does not lift alone.
At least not if he or she is a member of New Trier High School powerlifting.
“What New Trier offers that you don’t always see a lot of locally and nationally is the team component that we stress so much,” senior Rohan Patel said. “We have a huge group, so when we go (to meets), we bring all that energy and atmosphere when we’re competing.”
The team-driven motivation is key to the success of Trevians powerlifters, which was confirmed yet again on the national stage April 15-16.
At the Natural Athlete Strength Association High School Championships in Oklahoma City, New Trier earned plenty of hardware, including the overall program championship thanks to first-place finishes from the junior/senior girls and junior/senior boys.
The meet, which featured about 120 entries from high schools nationwide, was broken into unequipped (no supportive equipment) and equipped competitions, as well as by weight class and age (frosh/soph and junior/senior).
The overall team win is New Trier’s third straight in NASA’s national championships. It also earned titles in 2022 and 2019 (no NASA meets in 2020 and ’21, because of the COVID-19 pandemic). The 2019 title was the program’s first in eight years of participation in the meet.
During the NASA’s 2020-’21 hiatus, the Trevians picked up two other national victories via virtual competitions by USA Weightlifting.
Powerlifting head coach Jim Davis said national meets give his competitors to meet peers from around the country and extend their motivational powers.
“The unique thing about the Oklahoma trip is the diversity of experience and back stories and our kids are meting new people from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico. These aren’t kids you would just bump into,” he said. “I would say five parents or coaches from other schools came up and said, ‘Whatever you all are doing, keep doing it.’ The support that came off our kids for each other but also for kids from other schools — we were incredibly proud of them.”
Davis credited the team’s performance and mindset to its four captains: Patel, Max Rafeedie, Camille Rose and Maxwell Jiang. The “motivating and unifying” leaders also get it done through their lifts. Rafeedie, Rose and Jiang placed first in their respective unequipped weight classes, while Patel took second in his; though he performed personal best lifts.
Davis also pointed to junior Dylan Jeppe (first in weight class), and sophomores Gianna Sanchez and Jayden Salazar for their big weekends.
Patel said the team set its sights on another national title last summer and the hard work paid off.
“It’s a really big deal. … It’s something we thought about over the summer, that we want to do that again,” he said. “We were going down with that mentality and we had a great group of athletes perform.”
The powerlifting team, a former club program, became part of the New Trier Athletics Department earlier this school year. Davis said the move has helped the program secure training time and space, as well as attract new members.
Energy was high this year; sometimes too high. Davis and his fellow coaches — Rijad Pekmez, Matt Klem and Maeve Gobeyn, all former New Trier powerlifters — had to at times redirect it.
“The roster is as big as it’s ever been, the commitment level is great,” he said. “This year as much as any year we’re trying to embed lessons in lifelong health and wellness. There are folks we have to pull back a little bit, because they are so driven they want to max out every day.”
Next up for the Trevians is the state championships hosted by Stagg High School on May 6 in southwest-suburban Palos Hills. The growing competition is up to 250 participants from more than 20 high schools.
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