By Eduardo Cuan, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Saint John's High School hosted the fourth annual Ryan Moore New England High School Powerlifting Championships March 9, closing out the high school powerlifting season. More than 80 male and female athletes from 15 New England high schools competed in the meet, including Saint John's and Shrewsbury High School. Saint John's won the team titles in both the Junior Varsity and Varsity raw divisions, in which athletes are allowed to wear a lifting belt and wrist wraps for extra support.
The meet was governed by USA Powerlifting (USAPL) rules and open to all USAPL-registered athletes between 12 and 19 years old. The lifters were divided into 11 different weight classes and two age divisions. Athletes were scored by taking the kilogram total of three lifts – the squat, the bench press and the dead lift – for the highest overall total.
Although Westwood's Xaverian Brothers High School team did not take home a trophy, sophomore Kerim Saraoglu set an unofficial world record by squatting 534 pounds (the equivalent of squatting with a baby grand piano strapped to your shoulders). The record is considered “unofficial” because there weren's any certified international referees on hand to judge the lift. Since it was a state-level competition, only state referees were required to be present.
“Everybody in attendance was blown away by the record,” said Steven Davis,?meet organizer and Saint John's strength and conditioning coach. “The lifters were amazed. You could see there was great camaraderie and sportsmanship among everyone involved.”
Davis, who is also a biology and anatomy/physiology teacher at Saint John's, has been in charge of the?team since 2010. He says this year's turnout was the highest in terms of the number of athletes and schools involved. Saint John's had the largest team at this year's meet, with 20 athletes. Davis and Saint John's have come a long way since entering just three lifters to the same event five years ago. Some schools at this year's meet had as few as one lifter, while most, such as Shrewsbury High School, had at least five.
Although powerlifting is not a Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) sport, it has been a positive extracurricular club that has attracted a surprisingly wide variety of athletes who enjoy strength training.
“There have been several football players, wrestlers, runners, lacrosse, tennis and baseball players who have contributed to the powerlifting team outside their respective seasons,” Davis said. “But of equal importance are the students who never before competed in interscholastic sports until they found their niche with powerlifting. In the past few years, our team has earned points from student musicians and artists who only compete in powerlifting. Even more, senior captain Jack Anastasi only participates in powerlifting, yet he earned a medal at last summer's Pan American Open. I's so happy we'se found something that leaves these guys with more fond memories from high school.”