New Albany saved their best for last, topping several personal records and crowning two individual champions in powerlifting on Saturday in Jackson.
Zach Hand and Wade Simmons entered the state championships as favorites in their respective classes and excelled, finishing with total weights of 1355 and 1540, respectively.
“It’s amazing. These guys have been together since the seventh grade, and to see Zach and Wade come away with championships today, it’s big for them,” NAHS coach Ron Price said. “They set a lot of personal goals for themselves this year and they set their personal best today, so to be able to come to the state championship and perform to the best of your ability, it’s a big deal. I’m thrilled to death for them for accomplishing something that not a lot of kids are able to, and it couldn’t have happened to better kids.”
The senior duo set personal bests in each category, squat (500 for Hand, 625 for Simmons), bench (315 for Hand, 340 for Simmons) and dead lift (540 for Hand, 575 for Simmons). Finishing their high school careers on top was something both wanted and strived for.
“It means a lot. I’ve been working really hard for the last five years and also had to battle back from knee injury, so to come back and get stronger, it was great to accomplish this,” Simmons said.
Simmons was also honored in a pre-championship ceremony Friday evening, as he was named a member of Mississippi’s first All-State powerlifting team.
“It was a big honor for him to be a part of that first team, and for New Albany to be represented on that team is very special,” Price said.
For Hand, this is his second individual championship, as he won the shot put in track last season. His hope is to add one more title to his accolades from an already impressive senior year.
“It’s what I wanted. I wanted four state champions, but we fell short in football, so now I have to focus on repeating in track,” he said.
Hand was joined by fellow teammate, O.J. Hardin, who finished in third place in the 198-weight class. Hardin battled for the final spot, having scratched in both the squat and bench press.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I had Zach cheering for me on the side and everyone in the stands. It helped and feels great to come back and place.”
“We really don’t know just how strong O.J. is because every time we asked something of him, he accomplishes it,” Price added. “For him to be able to come through on his dead lift and put himself in a position to place was big for him. He’s only a sophomore, so he’s only going to get stronger over the next two years.”
The Lady Bulldogs continued their impressive streak at state, finishing in fifth place as a team with two individuals, Sarah Manning and Nikki Abrams placing third in their respective classes.
The powerlifting season comes to an end with 13 lifters (seven girls, six boys) representing New Albany at state.