Quitman girls powerlifting thrives in first year as program

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 11:40 AM CDT
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QUITMAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Kristie Graves was encouraged to join Quitman’s girls powerlifting team at band practice by head coach Charlie Sorto, who also serves as the school’s band director.

Powerlifting was something she never imagined herself doing, but she decided to join the team anyways.

“I definitely thought lifting weights was going to be harder than it was,” Graves said. “We started very light but, I didn’t know I was going to lift as much as I do now.”

Graves is one of 20 athletes that make up Quitman’s girls powerlifting team, which is in its first year as a program. Forming a new team can be challenging, especially when it’s composed of athletes that have never competed in the sport.

“It was a lot of growing pains at first. There was a lot of soreness the first couple weeks of workouts,” Coach Sorto said. “They thought I was killing them and I really wasn’t, we were just ‘Hey, this is what lifting weights is’”

Sorto recruited girls from band and other sports to join the team.

“It was a lot of students from different backgrounds like some of us play softball, soccer and band,” Graves said. “It was very competitive. We got to see who was going to compete in a meet, who was gonna make it.”

The Lady Panthers began team workouts in November and had their first meet in February.

“Once that first meet happened it was like ‘Oh this is what this is’,” Sorto recalled. “We saw folks from other schools and then workouts kind of took off.”

Girls powerlifting for the Mississippi High School Activities Association is broken down into three classes. Class I is composed of 1A and 2A schools, Class II includes 3A and 4A schools and Class III is 5A and 6A schools.

The Lady Panthers competed in three meets this season: The division meet, region meet and South State meet. They won the division and region and placed third at South State.

“On Friday we’ll lift in the state championships for our fourth meet of the season.” Sorto said. “Hopefully the stars will align...but we’ll see what happens”

The journey to Friday’s MHSAA State Championship in Jackson hasn’t been easy for some of the team’s members.

“There was a lot of questions. A few of them even tried to quit before that first meet,” Coach Sorto said. “One of them is actually lifting for a state championship this Friday and almost quit before we had the first meet.”

That individual is Fashanti Allen, who came to Coach Sorto during the 2020 school year asking if he could form a girls powerlifting team.

“I wanted to quit because I fell one time and I knew I couldn’t do that,” Allen emotionally recalled. “I fell a lot, but my teammates Maddy helped me, Kirstie helped me – like all of them helped me and it’s so sweet.”

Through the tears and the aches, the Lady Panthers agree the journey has been worth it and that they’ve built a foundation for other girls powerlifting teams to come.

“I think when you start you put in a certain amount of work and when you look back you say ‘I can do this,’” Graves said. “You think ‘I’m capable of making it this far’ and really the possibilities are endless.”

From nearly quitting to competing for a state championship on Friday, Allen is thankful she fought through the tough times and now has a team she calls “sisters”.

“I’m so happy to have this,” Allen said. “I’ve been wanting this since...the beginning of high school.”

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