Friday, June 29, 2007

Brett Christopherson column: Lifter going to world meet

When Megan Williams arrived at Seymour High School as a wide-eyed freshman, the last thing on her mind was hooking up with the club powerlifting team.

"I didn't even know we had a club here," she said with a laugh. "I didn't know anything about it at all."

Four seasons of heavy lifting later, Williams is inviting you to hoist a four-ounce brat in her honor.

The 18-year-old is looking to raise some serious dough so she can compete in the World Sub-Juniors and Juniors Powerlifting Championships on Sept. 4-8 in La Garde, France.

How much are we talking? Try roughly $3,000 — cash Williams will try to earn by seeking donations from local businesses and through fund-raisers like a scheduled brat fry in front of Don's Quality Market in Seymour on July 19-20.

Granted, it's going to take a pile of Johnsonvilles to put a dent in that $3,000 price tag. But raising a few grand over the summer months should be a breeze compared to the amount of iron Williams will raise inside the weight room as she continues to prepare for world competition.

She found out in mid-May she had been selected to compete on the United States Junior squad, becoming the first Seymour powerlifter — boy or girl — to qualify for the world meet.

"I'm very, very surprised," said Williams, who lives in Black Creek and graduated from Seymour in May. "It was like a huge goal of mine to make it (to worlds), but I didn't think it would be this year. I thought I would have to work for it more."

Then again, this weightlifting stuff has proven to be easier than she thought.

Williams decided to give the sport a try as a freshman at the urging of Thunder coach Dave Bauer, who saw something in Williams that she didn't see in herself.

"He thought I'd be good at it," she said. "I was pretty doubtful, actually."

Nowadays, Williams is as cool as a fighter pilot. After all, she hasn't placed lower than third in any competition and capped a stellar four-year high school career by capturing the 114-pound state championship in early March with a total lift of 705 pounds. The total is determined by combining her top showings in the bench press, squat and dead lift.

"Right off the bat, I just started doing really well at meets," said Williams, who plans on attending the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point this fall. "I just kind of found out that I actually might go somewhere if I work at it. After winning state, I felt really good."

Not as good as when she read that e-mail telling her she would be competing for the United States at the world meet.

Williams advanced after putting up a personal-best 710 pounds (154 bench, 275 squat and 281 dead lift) during the national meet in March at Alexandria, La. That was second behind a 16-year-old in the 114-pound weight class, but best among the 19- to 23-year-old age group she will be competing at in worlds.

According to Williams, athletes at national competitions compete in weight classes, whereas the world meet also divides participants into age groups. Williams said she didn't compete in two other national meets, but neither saw her 710-pound total eclipsed in the 19-23 age bracket.

"My biggest goal would be placing in the top three," Williams said of the world meet. "At least top five is what I'd really like to do."

She's also hoping to soak up the experience. La Garde is located in southern France, far from the hustle and bustle of Paris and not too far from the Mediterranean Sea.

Cool stuff for a kid who has yet to venture outside of Uncle Sam's reach.

"I've never even seen an ocean before," Williams said. "That would be interesting. And I'm excited to see the small villages. People ask if I'm going to Paris, but I'm really excited about being in a rich culture where it's not so touristy."

But plenty of hard work remains between now and then.

There's the continued training, which includes workouts about four days a week. Some of those include sessions with the Neenah lifters since the Rockets are well-versed in sending athletes to the world meet.

"They've been really helping me out a lot," Williams said. "Just how to prepare, what to expect. I'm sure I'll get a lot more nervous because of not having experience at this level and not knowing what will happen."

Then there's the fund-raising, which Williams said has just gotten under way. She's also hoping to defray some of the cost through her gig as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the Seymour High School pool.

"I think it's a huge confidence builder," Williams said, reminding herself what she truly loves about powerlifting and all that goes into it. "You can see yourself improve and see yourself getting better. And in other sports, there's so much rivalry and head to head competition.

"In powerlifting, there's obviously competition and you want to do good, but people really are respected and help each other out, even if they're from another team."

Sounds like a great reason to wolf down a brat or two.
Women in Sports is a twice-a-month column featuring women athletes in or from the Fox Cities. Ideas for future columns can be submitted to Brett Christopherson at bchristopherson@postcrescent.com.

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