Niles power-lifter headed to U.S. Nationals

Published 8:20 am Friday, November 19, 2004

By By ADAM FISHER / Niles Daily Star
Antoine Gray, a sophomore at Niles' Cedar Lane Alternative Education school, started power-lifting a couple months ago as a way to stave off boredom. He never dreamed he'd have the chance to compete for a championship in the sport.
But that's the opportunity Gray earned at Saturday's United States of America Power Lifting (USAPL) open meet in Plainwell. Gray was competing with five other students with Niles High School's power-lifting club.
Gray, the only representative from Cedar Lane, took first place in the 16-17 year-olds' 165-pound division and lifted enough weight to qualify for the USAPL Nationals in June.
Gray, 15, lifted with the Niles power-lifting club, a non-school sponsored club sport. Five other Niles students competed at the event, and all six finished in the top three of their divisions. The lifters were divided into ages, then weight classes.
At the open meet, each lifter completed a dead lift, a squat and a bench press. Each person got three tries at each event, and the highest weights successfully lifted were combined for that competitors total.
Gray dead lifted 425 pounds, squated 375 pounds and bench pressed 275 pounds for a total of 1075, winning his division. Even if he had not won his division, he would have automatically qualified for the national tournament because his total was more than 1000 pounds.
Although nervous before the meet, Gray said he was excited when he found out he had made it to the next level. He thinks he can lift even more weight at the national finals.
Senior Chad Nichols, junior Jordan Basore and sophomore Alex Zanders also won first place in their respective divisions. Nichols set a state record in the dead-lift in his class.
Senior Joey Townsend placed second in his division, and junior Drew Donahue finished third.
Though he's lifted weights for other sports before, this is the first year Gray has been involved in Niles' power-lifting club. He said he joined the club because it looked like fun, and it gave him something to occupy his time after school.
Now that he's qualified for nationals, where he has a chance to make the USA World Team and compete in other countries, Niles power-lifting coach Joe Racht said Gray is going to get on an actual training regiment and get the specialized equipment he needs to improve.
The power-lifting club has existed for about six years, but Racht just took over the program this year. Racht is a baseball coach at Niles and was in the weight room almost daily anyway, so he was asked to run the club.
The team doesn't have a set practice schedule, Racht said, because it doesn't need one. The high school's weight room is open five days a week, and Niles' lifters are in there most every day because they enjoy working out.
Racht said the team is not only beneficial to the students' health and self-esteem, but also gives them something positive to work for.
The power-lifters will continue to train in the next few months before the next USAPL meets in January and February.