2009-12-13 / Sports

On the mountain top


The high school sports scene has so many ups and downs, it’s inevitable that in every season at least one sport gets lost in the melee created by the excitement of all the others, just like boys water polo did this past fall. Currently, while basketball may be the main attraction across the board and regardless of gender, just over the horizon lie several often-overlooked competitions on the prep agenda, one of which is powerlifting.

While perhaps it’s a pastime that brings forth images of behemoths such as Gregg Valentino, who previously claimed to have the world’s largest biceps and even wrote a pro-steroid column for Muscular Development magazine, at the high school level powerlifting is designed to keep athletes in shape while their sport-of-choice is out of season. The problem is there’s no uniformity to the idea from one school to the next, with some programs only competing in one or two events a year.

That’s actually fairly common, though, as the 2010 USAPL schedule only lists meets Jan. 23 at Lake Orion, Jan. 30 at Vassar and Feb. 6 at Flushing before the first regional qualifier takes place Feb. 27 at Fenton for the state’s east side. Shepherd and Cros-Lex will also host push/pull meets Jan. 30 and Feb. 20 as a tune-up for regionals, and Goodrich will host a westside meet Jan. 16, but even some of that information isn’t currently available.

What this equates to locally is little if any representation at the annual Michigan High School State Powerlifting Championships, which in 2009 saw Lake Orion and Clarkston take the top two spots with scores of 59 and 54. Some of the other results include Montrose tying with Flushing and Holly for fifth with 35 points, Linden was 10th with a score of 25, and just behind them was Goodrich, which tied Parchment for 11th place with a score of 22.

With the bitter-cold hand of winter waiting to smack down most youthful motivations and while it may be a club sport, powerlifting is open to boys and girls without all the restrictions and costs involved at the varsity level.

Instead of just having a page located within another site, as powerlifting has within the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association website, water polo instead launches from a solo platform. This gives fans the ability to touch base with either season without restriction, which works well, since the girls start training in February.

After last year’s championships, it was Ann Arbor Huron that stood on the mountain top as the state’s top squad, with the rest of the top 10 populated by Okemos, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Hudsonville, Saline, Rockford, West Ottawa, East Grand Rapids, Birmingham Groves and East Kentwood.

In order to compete with such established programs, the only chance some schools have is a coop effort, such as this year’s Clio/LakeVille hockey team. Previously, the Falcons were forced to remove themselves from the prep hockey scene for two years before finding a school both willing and able to help turn their skate-based dreams into a reality.

Whether the answer lies within the concept of club sports, co-op teams or some combination of the two, it’s tough to see the LakeVille and Bentley wrestling teams regularly compete with so few weapons at their disposal. Instead, perhaps administrators could pool resources to help maximize the local high school sports experience. After all, teen athletes play these games for the fun of it and not the life-long lessons that become the inevitable conclusion.

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