By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
The 2016 high school powerlifting season has begun and Port Isabel High was well represented at the first meet of the year at Brownsville Pace High School Saturday.
“I was very pleased with all the kids’ efforts, considering that I have a lot of new lifters,” powerlifting head coach Victor Rubalcaba told the Press Monday. “I have four freshmen on the girls’ team and a couple sophs on the boys’ side.”
John Ray Martinez placed third in the 198-pound class at Pace with a total lift (TL) of 1,285 pounds. Other top ten finishers for the Tarpons included Esai Camacho, 198 pounds, 7th, 1,105-pounds TL; Ian Torres, 275 pounds, 5th, 1,170 pounds TL; and Aaron Hernandez, 275 pounds, 10th, 1,105 pounds TL.
For the Lady Tarpons Venessa Ybarra was the highest placer; she was 6th in the 165-pound division with a total lift of 545 pounds. Also placing for the P.I. girls were Miya Whittington, 123 pounds, 7th, 495 pounds TL; Tanja Barbarena, 132, 8th, 545 pounds TL; Anna Delgado, 132, 12th, 495 pounds TL; Francesca Sandoval, 148, 7th, 720 pounds TL; Mikayla Snyder, 165, 8th, 485 pounds TL; and Audrey Martinez, 198, 540 pounds TL.
Rubalcaba is back on the Port Isabel High coaching staff this year after coaching at other schools the past two years. He was the head lifting coach at Freer High School, 2013-’14, and on the staff as an assistant at San Benito High last year. One Greyhound lifter finished second at the state meet that season.
As the season goes on Rubalcaba anticipates getting more girls, and guys, into the weight room at the high school to give this unique sport a try. “Some kids are self-conscious, ‘Oh, I’m not strong enough.’ I tell them it’s not about what you can do now. It’s about what you can do later. We all have to start somewhere.”
Junior John Ray Martinez moved up to 198 pounds for this season after struggling to maintain weight in the 181-pound division last year. This is his third year competing in the sport. Martinez plays both ways on the Tarpon football team, at linebacker and running back, and he knows that weight lifting helps him as a football player.
“Powerlifting is going to give (me) the extra strength and the edge … to play linebacker and running back, with the blocking and stuff. It helps a lot with football.”
Martinez wasn’t going for any personal bests at the Pace meet. “I was trying to get all nine lifts in and I did. That’s all that matters. I didn’t want to blow myself out in the first meet.”
Texas high school powerlifters compete in three different lifting disciplines; the squat lift, bench press, and dead lift. Each competitor is allowed three attempts in each lift and his or her total lift is the sum of the best lifts in each category.
Venessa Ybarra, a senior, is in her second year of competitive lifting. “I’m a little stronger (this year) and I know more about techniques than I did last year.”
Ybarra said she did “O.K.” at the Pace meet; “I’m not satisfied because I know I could have done a lot better.”
Ybarra’s personal best in the dead lift is 225 pounds and she went for 235 on her final attempt on Saturday. “On the dead lift I was tired – I had never done 235 before. When I went up my position (over the bar) wasn’t right. You’re supposed to stay tight all the way through, and I kind of let loose.”
The next meet is this Saturday at Brownsville Lopez High School, and Martinez and Ybarra both plan to be there.
“I want to increase my weight by 10, 15 pounds on each lift,” Ybarra said Monday. “And if I can’t do that then I’ll try to get all my lifts in.”
Like a number of student-athletes at PIHS, Ybarra is active in more than one sport in a given season. “We do take a break (no practice Fridays) but on Friday I have a tennis match.” Ybarra maintains a high grade-point average and holds down a part-time job at a restaurant on South Padre Island. She makes time for sleeping at night.
Rubalcaba brings competitive experience to the job of head powerlifting coach. He was a top lifter at Lyford High School and was state champion in the 181-pound class as a senior in 1997. He has also judged at regional meets.
“I can relate – everything from putting the suits on, wrapping the knees, how to focus and prepare mentally. It’s as much mental as it is physical.”
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