Jeri Holwick, power lifter at McLouth High School
Jeri Holwick, a senior at McLouth High School, got into power lifting her sophomore year. Now she can squat 325 pounds and is 3A state champion.
McLouth Jeri Holwick is one high school girl who says she likes her big legs.
Holwick, a 17-year-old senior at McLouth High School, is a state champion power lifter who can squat 325 pounds. Those strong legs are doing some work.
This Saturday, she hopes to become a two-time state champion and break records at the state power lifting meet in Marion. She’s on pace to do just that; the state record for squat is 315 pounds.
Power lifting isn’t a sanctioned sport by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, but Holwick has been attending meets around the area all semester.
Her introduction to lifting came in eighth grade when summer lifting was just something to do after cheerleading practice with her older sister. Her sophomore year, a pair of brothers at McLouth noticed Holwick and started coaching her, and Holwick fell in love with the sport.
“They gave me a sport that I will do till I’m old and wrinkly,” she said.
Now, Holwick lifts Monday through Thursday and is often the only girl in a weight room filled with boys, many of whom can’t squat as many pounds as she can.
“It’s pretty cool to lift more than the guys,” she said. “I really like lifting with the football guys. They really want to push forward for their football season, so it kind of gives me a drive to do better and really motivates me.”
Gary Freeman, Holwick’s weightlifting coach at school, said most girls have no interest in heavy lifting.
“Jeri is the only girl who will come in regardless of whether there’s another girl to lift with,” he said. “She’ll come in with 35 guys in the weight room and it will be just her and she will have no problems with it.”
He said the competition is friendly.
“Although she is a girl, it’s kind of a brotherhood,” he said. “She is a part of it.”
Holwick’s practices include doing squats, cleans and bench press, as well as other auxiliary lifts to increase her strength. When she feels she doesn’t do well enough, she’ll discipline herself by running suicides until she’s tired.
“It’s not OK for me to come in and slack off,” she said. “The days that I’m not shaking to unlock my car and stuff, I know I didn’t work hard enough.”
Her hard work has paid dividends this season. She’s won all but one meet in the squat and overall lift. She set a meet record squatting 325 pounds in February in Horton, and at the same meet placed first overall for highest overall total lift of squat, cleans and bench press — 615 pounds.
“It’s a big deal when Jeri gets up there,” said Holwick’s father, Dan. “She gives 110 (percent) on everything.”
Although Holwick is involved in other activities, including volleyball and track, power lifting is what she always returns to. In a small school where many students are involved in many activities, she said lifting can provide relief from the stress.
“When I get mad, it makes it a lot better,” she said.
It’s also a confidence booster. Holwick said before lifting, she lived in her older sister’s shadow and wasn’t eager to get out of it. She was involved in many of the same activities as her sister, but finally found a way to differentiate herself.
“She can outrun me, and I can outlift her,” she said.
Now Holwick’s confident in her own skin and has moved past her insecurities.
“It’s not just a sport for skinny people,” she said. “I love my sport, and if I have big legs as a consequence, that works for me.”