Four years ago if you walked into the Terrell High School weightlifting room, you would find one female powerlifter among the male powerlifters. Thanks to the leadership of Coach Albert Martinez, twenty-one female athletes have now added “powerlifter” to their athletic resume.
Sophomore Cheyanne Chanthaseng, who has been a member of the powerlifting team for two years, says that powerlifting has given her the confidence to try new things. “Powerlifting has not only made me stronger physically, but also mentally. I now recognize my own self-worth,” she said.
Her teammate, Madison McCleery, agrees. Madison, a first-time powerlifter and high school junior, says that she started powerlifting as part of her new year’s resolution. She never realized how much she would enjoy the sport. “Like a lot of girls, I started powerlifting to simply get stronger, but now I have fallen in love with the sport. Powerlifting has also helped me academically, because I am intentional about keeping my grades up so that I can participate,” Madison shared.
Both athletes said that while the majority of the powerlifting team is made up of guys, they feel supported and encouraged by their male teammates. “The guys on the team have been very welcoming and they genuinely cheer for us when they see us improve and do well,” said Madison.
This new culture of team building would not have been possible without the leadership of Coach Martinez. “Coach Martinez inspires us every day, he does not hold back,” shared Cheyanne. “He has been a flashlight in the dark for so many of us trying to find our way.”
When asked about the female athletes on the powerlifting team, Coach Martinez said that the ladies have an impeccable work ethic. “I don’t have to repeat directions. I give them a workout and they do it with an eye for improvement,” he said. He also shared that it has been extremely rewarding to see so many female athletes become members of the powerlifting team.
Madison and Cheyanne both hope that the program will continue to grow. “Powerlifting has given me a whole new set of friends and it has been a really good choice for me,” shared Madison. Cheyanne also added, “I think that for a lot of young women they do not realize what they are capable of accomplishing. You do not know until you try.”
As for the talent and skill set of the female powerlifting team, the young women are making a name for themselves and empowering others to do the same. By year three, the team had a regional and state qualifier. Now in the program’s fourth year, three young ladies have qualified for regionals, two-time qualifier, junior Zaryiah Henderson; first-time qualifier, junior Madison McCleery; and, two-time qualifier, Cheyanne Chanthaseng.
Now that is what we call, female emPOWERment.