By Jodie Ng, news staff
Senior president Emily Liebert and the entire 24-person women’s powerlifting team qualified for the USA Powerlifting Collegiate Nationals, taking place in Atlanta this weekend. The majority of the men’s team is also competing in the event from Friday to Sunday.
Officially, NU has two separate club powerlifting teams but the men and women operate as one unit. With Head Coach Michael Zawillinski at the helm, the Huskies will be competing against 30 other schools.
Liebert said the freshmen have yet to realize how big the competition will be, as the meets they normally attend host about 50 lifters and Nationals will be on a much grander scale.
“I don’t think they even understand the capacity of it, so we try to make them super excited and [say] ‘this is what you have to expect,’” Liebert said. “The newer kids are trying to figure ‘what am I getting myself into?’ whereas the people who have been on the team for a while know exactly what they’re getting themselves into and are like ‘alright, gotta step up to plate and do what I’m training to do.’”
Senior men’s President Matthew Cassista said members are feeling both excited and nervous. NU competes three times a year.
“The one in the fall is to get experience,” Cassista said of their first annual competition. “The second is to qualify for nationals and the third one is nationals.”
Liebert said that in the five years she has been on the team, they have gone from needing new members to holding tryouts because too many women want to join the team. Cassista added tryouts are held because the team has started to exceed the weight room’s capacity. There are 40 members on the men’s team.
Cassista said he searches for the whole package during tryouts and that someone who is naturally strong is a benefit, but not necessarily the most important element.
“Enthusiasm goes into it,” he said. “Somebody who wants to be there and wants to learn, who is asking questions like ‘How do I get better?’ That definitely weighs heavily in my book.”
Powerlifters are divided by weight class and every competitor has three different lifts they need to complete: squatting, benching and deadlifts, with three attempts for each. The goal is to lift the most amount of weight in a clean manner. Officials judge the competitors to make sure their lift is executed properly.
Training and form is important, especially as many may lack experience in the sport.
“Most people don’t have any experience doing any of these things,” Liebert said. “If they are lifting on their own, there’s a good chance they’re doing it wrong.”
Once members learn the correct form, Cassista said, powerlifting becomes natural.
“When you get into a routine and have discipline, then the sport is easy,” he said. “You do the same thing week after week and get a little bit [better] each time. After some-odd years, you get strong. It’s more of a science to me than most people.”
At the end of the day, both Liebert and Cassista said it’s about the people and camaraderie that comes with the team.
“I think it’s a family more than a team, if anything,” Liebert said.
Photo by Brian Bae