Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pumped about pumping iron

By MARK SINGELAIS, Staff writer
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First published: Saturday, July 21, 2007

ALBANY -- Rachael Mayer of East Greenbush left Columbia High School only three days into her senior year last fall. She decided to focus on her powerlifting career and her graduate equivalency degree

"I was just big into lifting and everything," Mayer explained last week. "It's not necessarily why I decided to (leave Columbia). I guess it was a lot of reasons. It wasn't any one thing, like 'I'm not going to school because I don't want to be educated.' "

Her classroom is a converted warehouse known as Cutting Edge Sports Sciences, the training facility off Central Avenue where Mayer has developed into an elite powerlifter.

Mayer, 17, is a three-time world champion aiming for a fourth title at the Amateur American Powerlifting Federation finals in Chicago on Aug. 4.

Mayer, competing in the 16-17 age group, is competing in the 165-pound class for the first time after winning titles at 132 (twice) and 148. She said her time away from school this year has helped her get bigger and stronger.

"Even though it's not necessarily why I left (school), it gave me more concentration," she said. "I didn't have to focus on other things like work and tests and people that I went to school with."

The 5-foot-4 Mayer has increased her personal bests in competition to 345 pounds in the squat, 198 in the bench press and 281 in the dead lift, for a total of 824 pounds.

Trainer and powerlifter Dyke Naughton, who runs Cutting Edge, said he's proud of Mayer's improvement.

"It's really exploded in the last six months," Naughton said. "Her bench has really exploded."

Mayer recently visited with Bill Crawford, an expert in bench training based in Lake George.

Yet she doesn't want to be known solely for her muscles. Her mother, Patti, said that led partly to her decision to depart Columbia.

"There's other elements to people's personalities," she said. "Even though she does this (powerlifting), she has a tendency to be sensitive toward how people feel and what they're thinking. And all the stuff that goes on at school, she just doesn't like it."

Rachael Mayer took the GED test in late June, a couple of days after her class graduated.

"I only had to take the test once, even though I'd been out of school for a year and didn't really do too much studying," she said.

Mayer plans to attend Hudson Valley Community College and might pursue a career in cosmetology. The blonde models part-time and won prizes for her entry in a Got Milk? campaign in Seventeen magazine two years ago.

"When people think of me they think I'm some huge, big, heavy girl, and I'm not," Mayer said.

Mayer also enjoys being behind the camera; she's an amateur photographer. But she feels most at home in Dyke Naughton's gym, with the sounds of AC/DC thumping in the background.

She began training at Cutting Edge as a 9-year-old gymnast before she got tired of the sport and switched to powerlifting at 12.

She spends two days a week, four hours at a time, pumping iron in the no-frills gymnasium.

"That's what I love abou

Singelais can be reached at 454-5509 or by e-mail at msingelais@timesunion.com.

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