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January 17, 2019

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Powerlifter supporters ask for school assistance

Nearly 30 students, parents, former students attend school board meeting

Nearly 30 persons attended Monday’s school board meeting to request assistance for a powerlifting group of students. Their requests went unanswered.

As an informal group, Bluffton students have participated in powerlifting competition for eight years. The specific request from the group was for the board to approve a volunteer to assist powerlifters in the Ricky Matter weight room.

At the present time there is no approved volunteer. Powerlifting is a winter sport. In Bluffton it is primarily a sport involving girls, however there are also boys who participate.

Thirteen persons, including students, parents of students, a grandfather of a student, plus former student powerlifters, addressed the board.

Among speakers were Tanya Augsburger, mother of a student powerlifter. She told the board that she wants to encourage her daughter’s involvement in the program and hopes that the school supports that.

Elizabeth Bourassa, student powerlifter said, “We need a knowledgeable adult to help us in the weight room.”

Jim BeMiller, Elizabeth’s grandfather, told the board that the powerlifters brought home five medals in its most recent meet, pointing to the program’s success.

Rhonda Swisher, mother of a student powerlifter, told the board that her daughter who participates in the group, has grown as an athlete and as a person because of the opportunity to participate. “Powerlifting is in need of a coach. Bluffton has the facility (Matter Center).”

Others who spoke said the group is not asking for money or even a bus to take students to competitions.  They emphasized the positive aspects of the program from students who have participated. They also claimed that powerlifting does not take away from other sports.

Mark Bourassa, father of a student powerlifter, said that there are a wide variety of students involved in the program. “Some of the kids are marginalized. It’s a positive activity (for them).”

Another speaker said she was proud of the girls and wanted to hear the board’s criteria for using the weight room.

Randy Augsburger said, “It would be a shame not to use the Matter Center as a weight room for the power lifters.”

Jeremy Basinger pointed out, even without a coach, there are limited open hours for opening lifting at the weight room.

Greg Denecker, superintendent, said that a school Bluffton’s size can only support so many sports. “We understand your passion.” He said that the school athletic council felt we were losing students (to other sports) to powerlifting.

Board member, Jeremy Scoles, said that he appreciates the courage, especially of students, to come and talk to the board, as “this is a forum.”

The board did not act on the request for a volunteer coach on Monday and did not indicate that any action would be coming on the request.

Additional background
Powerlifting is not recognized as a school sport at Bluffton, although it has been in existence since 2011. Previously, Kelly Prichard was the coach with Andrew Spallinger as an assistant coach. 

Last year the team had 28 students. Since 2011 Bluffton student powerlifters have produced 10 state champions and 47 powerlifters have placed at the state meet.

Last weekend one of the Bluffton girl powerlifters had a max deadlift of 290 pounds and bench press of 140 pounds.