HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — Trophies line the walls inside the weightlifting gym at Hershey High School. Who would have thought that a town known for its candy would boast some of the best weightlifters in the country.
But the sport of powerlifting is stronger than ever for the Trojans
“It’s straight adrenaline. You get up to that third attempt on deadlift and you’re done for the day, but you know you need this to win first place and it’s your PR for the whole year,” said Hershey junior Cory Schaffer. “I’ve neve felt anything like it.”
Schaffer, who finished third at the high school national powerlifting competition in the 231 pound division, isn’t the only one who feels that way.
Hershey has a handful of top powerlifters in the country, like Dayvon Williamson, who won a national championship at 182 pounds. It takes hundreds of hours in the gym to perform for just a couple of seconds.
“Most of our work is in the weight room and you only get two to three meets a year to actually show it so that’s pretty cool about it,” said Williamson, a junior at Hershey. “And when it’s done it’s done. Either you lift it or not.”
But that’s only where the love comes from, it’s also the growth. This sport has given so many the confidence boost they needed when they started lifting their freshman year.
“Four years of working for that opportunity absolutely felt great,” said Daniel Still, a senior on the team who finished second at nationals despite recovering from two past ACL tears. “To be second in the nation as a senior really feels great, especially knowing like you were just a dorky kid once.”
Hershey’s national powerlifting strength comes not only from extreme dedication, but the support of everyone in the gym.
“We all get behind each other, everybody is so excited for each other because its all about beating that next weight, beating yourself. We all want to see the next person beat their records,” said senior Kayleigh Koepke, who as a freshman could lift just the bench bar. Fast forward four years and she’s the fourth best lifters for her weight class in the United States.
The records are great, but powerlifting is such a beneficial sport in general, just ask Kayleigh’s sister, junior varsity national champ Leyna Koepke.
“I’m also building up my strength. And it’s like oh I have a meet coming up, I need to make sure I’m eating as healthy as possible right now. And so that is very helpful,” Leyna said/
Championships aside, this group is never satisfied. It has given them a community, a sense of belonging, and even more goals to achieve in the future.”
“This sport has honestly kept me going,” said Kayleigh, who moved to Hershey with her sister and family from Alabama.
“Set some more (personal records),” said Williamson. “Set some more school records and hopefully go back to back and be a national champion next year.”
One thing is for sure, Hershey is going to need a lot more trophy space by the time this group is done lifting.