Northwest Christian High School’s Kelli Born, a member of the Navigators powerlifting team, is starting to feel the strain.
“It really is a lot,” Born said, yielding to defeat. “Do you mind if a take it off?”
One by one Born removes the sizeable gold medals from around her neck. She was wearing eight total, each one impressive in size and surprisingly heavier than you would expect.
Born has no problem putting up lofty numbers with her deadlifts or squats, but even for someone as strong as her, wearing all eight of these medals at the same time is asking a lot out of anyone.
“That’s better,” sighs Born, following the moment the last medal is slipped off her neck.
Born was one of four Northwest Christian athletes to compete at the 2017 AAU Hi-Temp World Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Feats of Strength and MAS Wrestling Championships in September in Las Vegas, capturing first place in a remarkable eight events.
Competing against 350 powerlifters from 10 nations, the Navigators collected a combined 23 medals overall with 21 gold as Patrick Blevins won six gold medals, Abigail VanMarter won four and Jacob Furgison added three.
“Fortunately, we drove down,” said coach Scott Hollis when asked if there were any difficulties flying back with so much additional hardware in their carry-ons. “But if we flew we may have had some issues.”
Born swept all three of her powerlifting events, which included the deadlift, bench press and squat, while setting a new world record in the deadlift for her age group with a 259-pound lift. She would also add five gold medals during the Feats of Strength portion of the competition.
“I was actually only going to do one Feats of Strength event,” said Born, who, along with her teammates, qualified for the world championships after competing at the AAU National Competition in Tacoma. “I did the first one and realized the other events were things that I did at practice, so why not do some more? I ended up competing in a lot of them. It got pretty expensive. It cost $35 (to compete in) each event, but I thought I might as well do it. It ended up being worth it.”
VanMarter, who joins Born on the Northwest Christian volleyball team, excelled in the teen women’s division as well, winning three powerlifting events and setting an American record in the frame hold.
“I was a little worried because I hadn’t been working out the whole summer and I didn’t know how I was going to be,” VanMarter said. “It definitely turned out better than I expected.”
Blevins and Furgison both competed in the teen men’s division. Blevins won a trio of powerlifting events in his weight class before capturing gold in pulls up, frame hold and stone carry, where he set a world record. He also added a silver medal in MAS wrestling.
“There was definitely a lot going on,” said Blevins, a junior who joined the team less than six months ago, about the event, “but it was nice knowing you had some people to go with that were in the same situation as you.”
Furgison set new event records for the stone carry and frame hold, while also clinching the gold medal in push/pull powerlifting and a bronze in MAS wrestling.
“It’s a small school and it’s primarily a running school,” said Furgison, a senior and four-year member of the team, “but everyone (at the school) knew about how we did. There was a lot of congratulations, which made it pretty cool.”
Northwest Christian has had a powerlifting team for the past 12 years, but this year marked its first association with the AAU.
“We were introduced to the AAU by Andrew ‘Bull’ Stewart, who is from Columbia Sports in Seattle,” Hollis said. “They told us if we do well at state, they would qualify us for nationals, and it just went from there. It blew up.”
The team currently has 23 members during its “open-lift season,” however, Hollis expects that total to grow significantly following the Navigators’ strong performance at the world championships.
“For a school this size, that’s already a phenomenal number, but there’s been a lot of increased interest since we got back,” said Hollis. “The level of excitement has been very high. Our lifting season actually doesn’t even start until the second week of November and competitions doesn’t start until January, but I’ve been harassed since day one of the school year by the kids wanting to lift.”
One thing’s for sure, they better all start strengthening their necks so they can wear all the future medals that are surely coming their way.