Prep Sports

Lake Cormorant ready to lift 6A state girls powerlifting trophy

Photo: The Lake Cormorant girls’ powerlifting team, projected to win the MHSAA 5A state championship on Friday at Mississippi Coliseum. (Bob Bakken/ 

Barring a major reversal, another state championship trophy should be coming back to DeSoto County Friday when the MHSAA state 6A powerlifting meet is held at Mississippi Coliseum.  

The Lake Cormorant girls have been handily outlifting the competition this season and coach Tom Hernan said indications are that the trend should continue in Friday’s meet.  Teams can use past performances to indicate possible placings at the meet and Herman said those indications are a state record is within reach for the 10 lifters who qualified for state.  

The Lady Gators already have set regional and North Half point records and are within grasp of a state record.  

“The point record for state is 62 and we’re projected right now for 59 points, so I need to find three more points to get the all-time record.” Herman said. “We have lofty expectations. Jim Hill is projected at 30, compared to them at their South Half and us at the North Half.” 

If those projections hold, Lake Cormorant would become the first girls’ powerlifting team from DeSoto County to ever win a state championship.  

“There have been some individual state champions, but never as a team,” Herman said.  

Powerlifting is a sport that Lake Cormorant has had a dominant presence the past few years. The Gators were the state 5A state boys team champions for the second straight time last year and this year have seven state qualifiers for their meet.

The Lady Gators will have 10 competitors at state. They are Kaylee Nelson, Jania Rose, Brooke O’Connor, Taylor Perry, Trinity Brantley, Zamoria Nelson, Alana McGowin, Hannah Harris, Sandra Lucero, and Dynasty Noel.  

One name you may already recognize connected to another state championship team from Lake Cormorant. Jania Rose has won two titles with the Lady Gators 5A and 6A state volleyball championship teams and took on powerlifting as a new challenge.  

“I had done volleyball my whole life and I decided to try something new,” said Rose. “It took a while to get used to but after you start to do it, it became something that I started to like.”

Rose said powerlifting is a good way to stay in shape and the sport also has benefits on the volleyball court.   

“I have noticed that my vertical (jump) has gone up a lot,” Rose said. “The things we do here with powerlifting kind of feed into volleyball. I’ve seen an increase in speed and my stamina and those are things you need for volleyball.”

A sophomore at 105 pounds, Haylee Nelson has already made a mark in the powerlifting world and is very confident that she’ll be a champion.  She also has her sights on being among the Elite 12 top lifters at her weight division, regardless of class.  

“As a freshman I lifted double my body weight,” Nelson said. “This year I am lifting and squatting three times my body weight and working harder than ever. I’ve set many, many records and this year I’m going to win state. I’ve grown a lot since last year and I’ll continue to do that in the next few years.”

Nelson is determined to show doubters she is stronger than they may think. 

“I want to show people that even if you’re short and what problems you might have and whatnot, anything is possible,” Nelson said. “I can squat 300 pounds and anybody who thinks I can’t, I can prove them wrong.”

There are three lifts that make up a powerlifting competition in Mississippi high schools, the squat, bench press, and deadlift. The top lifts in the three events are totaled for a lifter’s score. Each competitor gets three attempts at the squat, three deadlifts, and one bench press. 

Team points are then awarded based on the lifter’s total score in their particular weight division. There are seven points for first place, five for second, three for third, two for fourth, and one for fifth place. Each lifter is competing for an individual championship but also to get team points toward a team title.  

Strength is a main component of powerlifting, of course, but Nelson points out the mental aspect of powerlifting is vital.  

“You can physically not be able to lift something and then you tell yourself that you can do it and then you do it,” Nelson said. “We have really challenging workouts, both mentally and physically.” 

There is another commonality to all of the girls that make up the Lake Cormorant girls powerlifting team. They are all part of the school’s Marine Corps Junior ROTC program that Herman has also been involved in. It was the one requirement for Herman to take over the team. He wanted each team member to also be involved in JROTC. 

“We’re very heavily focused on the physical fitness part,” Herman said. “That has yielded three state physical fitness championships and a Raider national championship. I asked if I could take over the girls powerlifting team, but I want it to be all ROTC girls, so if someone wants to join the powerlifting team they have to also join ROTC.” 

“I started on the JROTC Raider team and started doing some of their workouts and I liked doing their workouts,” Rose said. “I would see the powerlifting girls doing the workouts lifting the heavy weights and it inspired me.”  

“The girls didn’t know how strong they were,” Herman added. “The Core to Extremity training is what the girls already do and it resonated very well with powerlifting.” 

With the JROTC program, the powerlifting team has that time to also work on their lifts.  

“We get a free block to workout and get everything done that we need to get done and we stay after school for it,” Nelson said. “ROTC is where I’ve learned to become a powerlifter, because I was on the Raider team and I was mentally and physically challenged for Raider competitions and it’s the same competitions for this.”  

The Raider competition, often simply called “Raider,” is the JROTC equivalent of the Army ROTC’s “Ranger” competition in college. While it’s less dangerous than the Ranger competition, it remains highly challenging and physically demanding.

Herman adds that powerlifting helps girls boost their self image and enforces a championship belief in themselves.  

“I think it empowers girls, especially in the climate we are in now with social media and all of the pressure that they have, peer pressure on what a young girl is supposed to look like, I think it breaks through a lot of those barriers,” Herman said. “I can be 220 pounds and be a state champion, be proud of what I look like, and be a strong, powerful female. That’s what powerlifting does.”

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