Annika Angelo participated in the Pan American International Powerlifting Competition held on July 6th in Orlando, Florida as a member of the United States National Team. Unlike the open class category, which usually has participation by any adult who wants to enter, the junior and sub-junior classes, where Annika lifted, were by invitation only. Each of those classes had eight lifters, one for each weight division. Annika, however, was asked to lift in the 114 pound class along with another girl rather than have a lifter in one of the other weight classes as the USA team believed having Annika on their team would be a greater asset.
In powerlifting, there are three types of lifts, including squat, bench press, and deadlift, and this competition was no different. Participants were given three attempts at each type of lift. The largest amount lifted counted toward their total.
At the competition, Annika made six of her nine lifts and lifted a total of 766 pounds. She placed second in her weight class with her teammate placing first. Her team placed first out of all the countries that lifted. Looking at the numbers, she had the eighth best overall bench in the women's equipped category (counting all ages), had the best sub-junior girl bench total, and the second best bench between both sub-junior and junior girls.
Annika, coached by Steve & Jan Mealman, followed a dedicated path to reach her goal, and it was not always easy. She has continued on an upward trend since her first squat workout four years ago. "She hyperventilated, couldn't breath, cried; I think she thought she was going to die," Steve recalled. "But here she is today lifting on the Sub Junior National team."
Steve continued, "Annika worked hard her first three years of lifting, making it to State and Nationals each year, but she wanted more her senior year. She set high goals for herself. I told her in order to get to those goals she would need to lift all year long." And lift she did. According to Steve, they trained from September 2015 to July 2017, including vacations like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring & summer breaks. Annika dedicated herself to her goal, lifting eight to ten hours per week.
It wasn't the long hours that Annika found to be the hardest aspect, though. "The hardest part of the training process was losing the weight to compete. However, I learned a lot about diet and nutrition from the process, and I'll definitely be taking that with me to college."
Aside from diet and nutrition, Annika learned that a small community often comes together to support their own. "The powerlifting team is a family. Everyone supports and encourages each other to do our best. I've been blessed to have these coaches and teammates in my life. The support from the community was humbling, from monetary to simply coming up and congratulating me. This year the Loggers really pulled through in sports, from regional and sectional champs to advancing to state in various sports, and I'm proud to contribute to that," Annika said.
One member of her powerlifting family was Kenzie Svoboda, Annika's lifting partner this year. "Every week Kenzie was an important part of Annika's success," Steve noted.
"Often lifters from here might make it to State and possibly to Nationals but only with dedication, drive, and good coaching," Annika’s mother, Luanne, mentioned. "Almost every student athlete going to the national level has not just a team coach but a personal trainer and a nutritionist. Annika didn't have that luxury. She did, however, have coaches who believed in her and teammates that pushed her to be her best. While Annika was the one lifting out there on the platform, her coaches put in a lot of time and dedication and extreme belief into Annika. They were there not just for the good times but for the bad ones," Luanne shared with appreciation.
"The best part is lifting with the team and watching everyone achieve what they believed was impossible," Annika shared. "You get to know the girls and develop bonds that will last. I especially enjoy traveling the country for lifting at meets. I've made so many friends from all over Wisconsin. The main thing I see at meets is how everyone is friendly and encouraging, even if you're their competition."
According to Steve, Annika did her part to encourage others, as well. "Annika was a pleasure to coach. She always did everything we asked of her. She pushed herself and her work ethic was a good example to the other lifters, but even more, she is great at encouraging others to push to be their best."
Steve's most prideful coaching moment was Annika getting her third bench try at her last national meet in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Annika explained that she had almost bombed out, meaning she was almost unable to complete three lifts in either squat, bench, or deadlift at a meet. "However, I ended up completing all three of my benches at the NAPF meet, giving me a 198 pound bench. It was an amazing feeling lifting that last bench and making a comeback!" With pride in his prodigy, Steve added, "She then followed up with her 200 pound bench at the Pan American meet!"
There is no need to wonder if Annika regrets the sacrifices she had to make to achieve her powerlifting goals. "I would do it again in a heartbeat!" Annika exclaimed. She will be continuing on with lifting at UW-Eau Claire where she will enter collegiate meets with the team there. "Powerlifting has been an important part of my life, and I can't imagine living without it," she summarized.
Annika and her family would like to extend a special thank you to all who supported Annika financially through generous donations, physically by being there, and emotionally by sending messages and prayers.
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