Last February, the Osseo High School Orioles beat out 10 to 15 other schools to win the inaugural Minnesota State High School Powerlifting Championship. The team, formed by weight room supervisor and coach Daniel Prody, started as an informal group of student athletes training in the off-season. Now, they meet after school five days per week, practicing deadlifts and bench presses while having fun encouraging and supporting one another toward personal and team goals.
“It’s a fun opportunity for these kids who love to work out to do something positive and get out there and compete,” says Prody, who has learned about competition rules and techniques along with his students. “The powerlifting community is all about cheering you on, sharing tips and making the sport better.”
Here, we ask six team members what inspires them to excel in the weight room and beyond.
What inspired you to start lifting?
Aleah Techam: I used to work out with my brother all the time after school in the weight room, and I noticed there weren’t many girls. I really enjoy lifting and hope by having a girl join the team that it will spark other girls’ interest in joining.
Simahay Hitchcock: I wanted to get better and stronger.
Adeyinka Omotoyinbo: It helps clear my mind.
Grace Poppe: One day, coach Prody approached me in the weight room about lifting and I’ve been interested in it ever since.
Caleb Yagoda: Wanting to get bigger for football and just be a better athlete in general.
Ben Plzak: Dan Prody has been a tennis coach of mine since eighth grade, so I’ve known him for a while. With football, I lifted to train in the off-season. One day, Prody says “Ben, I want you and a couple other guys to take part in the Minnesota state weightlifting meet.” Instantly, I knew I was in.
What keeps you motivated?
Aleah: Knowing there aren’t many girl lifters motivates me to show off what we girls can do.
Adeyinka: Getting closer to success happens every time you work hard.
Caleb: This upcoming season keeps me motivated to keep getting stronger and faster so we can win a state title.
Ben: I see growth within myself and that is more satisfying than anything, but what really gets me motivated is when my coaches bust out the Kung Fu Panda card. Prody had me doing what are known as box jumps and many players and coaches said I looked and sounded like Po, the main character from the movie Kung Fu Panda. Now, whenever coaches need a little more effort out of me, they call me Kung Fu Panda.
What’s your favorite part of lifting?
Aleah: When coach Prody uses me as an example to show the boys how a lift is done.
Simahay: Bonding with my teammates and getting better as an athlete and as a person.
Adeyinka: My favorite is the gains. My least favorite is constantly fighting the pain.
Grace: My favorite thing about lifting is always getting better and being able to beat old personal records.
Caleb: I like bench [presses] and power cleans a lot (a lift that moves the barbell from the floor up to a position resting on the deltoids and clavicles). My favorite part about it is when you see results and get a personal record.
Ben: I really like pushing myself to reach a goal. I also enjoy meeting people from all over the state, and seeing how I compare to kids from other schools.
What are your goals for this year?
Aleah: Even though I am taking quite a few AP courses, I still hope to get straight A’s. Like any athlete, my goal is to push myself to be the best.
Simahay: My goal as a student is to get all A’s. My goals as an athlete are to get the starting running back position, get 2,500 yards and become state champ.
Grace: To become stronger for softball and faster for cross-country while doing well in school.
Caleb: I want at least a 3.5 GPA, and I want to see our football team be successful just as much as I want to be successful in lifting this upcoming winter; and to break all of my personal records by at least 20 pounds.
Ben: I want to get up to a 1,200–1,300-pound powerlifting total (squat, deadlift and bench). I would really like to compete for another football or weightlifting state championship, and I’d love to play college football.
How has lifting prepared you for your future?
Aleah: After I’m done lifting with Osseo, I’m still going to want to stay in shape and be healthy. Lifting isn’t just a sport; it’s a healthy lifestyle, if you do it correctly. Working with coach Prody, I’ve learned all the proper ways to lift. I will continue to use that when I go to the gym on my own.
Simahay: Lifting teaches you how to stay focused, to never quit and to finish what you start.
Grace: I’ve learned how to live a healthier lifestyle and how to safely push myself to get better.
Caleb: Not being a quitter and always trying my hardest no matter what I do, whether it’s lifting weights or taking the ACT.
Ben: Weightlifting really makes you a tough human being, both physically and mentally. With the skills I gained in weightlifting, I can handle adversity much easier than before. Lifting also makes me much more confident. This confidence has already opened many doors for me and I don’t think it’ll stop any time soon.
This season, the team is focusing on personal improvement and preparing for the next state meet. Prody says the lessons learned from last year and the increased interest in lifting from young athletes and the community will bolster their chances of meeting their goals.
“We’re picking up more female athletes,” he says. “I’m excited to see what these strong, explosive females can do and excited to have the young girls go out there to see their strength.
It’s been a learning process for everyone, as many of the technicalities competitors are judged on were still new to them. “We didn’t know all the goofy rules, and we definitely had some hiccups and headaches along the way, but it’s been a really cool experience,” Prody says.
While they may be the team to beat this year, Prody is quick to point out that passion for the sport is what drives Osseo’s powerlifts.
“We have the opportunity for the kids to do Olympic lifting this year,” he notes. “The sky’s the limit.”