By AUSTIN COLBERT
The two weightlifters had cumulatively moved nearly a standard ton, yet the difference between becoming a state champion versus second place came down to no more than half a pound.
After completing all three events on Saturday at the Class 3A state powerlifting meet at Marion High School, Thomas More Prep-Marian junior Parker Cox and Conway Springs' Luke Fisher had lifted a total 950 pounds each.
To settle the score, the winner went to the lightest competitor by weight. And because Cox weighed in a half pound less than his opponent, he was named 3A's 198-pound state champion in powerlifting.
"It was kind of surprising. I just went out and did the best I could and came out on top," Cox said. "It kind of took a while to set in at first. Then when I realized it, it was a really good feeling."
Despite being a state champion, the world of competitive powerlifting is still new to Cox and to TMP. Saturday's meet was just the fourth for each, one coming last spring, the other three within the last three months.
Powerlifting -- which involves lifting a maximum weight in the squat, clean and bench press to create a total score -- is not a sanctioned sport by the Kansas State High School Activities Association. Nonetheless, state competitions are held at each classification during the spring with smaller meets held across the state at various schools.
"Competitive weightlifting was something that was talked about but never followed through with (at TMP)," said John Montgomery, the Monarchs' second year football and weights coach. "Last year I took a handful of guys to the first powerlifting meet in WaKeeney. They really enjoyed it. At that time it was just finding out what it was all about. The first meet that I took the kids to was the first meet I'd ever been to."
And the interest grew from there. Montgomery took a few more kids to Clay Center in February, then returned to WaKeeney in early March with 16 kids. TMP only took two to the state meet over the weekend -- the other being junior Lane Fisher -- but this was mostly due to many students being out of town because of a band field trip.
With only two competitors, TMP still took 10th out of 33 boys' teams, with Conway Springs winning the overall team title. After the tiebreaker, Cox took first in his weight class, beating out 25 other athletes. Fisher, who competed at 156 pounds, took fourth out of 25 athletes to medal (top six).
The success definitely came as a surprise to all three.
"When they said sixth place and they didn't read his name, then fifth place and they didn't say his name, he pretty much counted himself out," Montgomery said of Fisher. "Then they said, 'Fourth place, Lane Fisher,' and his jaw about hit the ground. He is looking around, 'Did they just say my name?' It's really cool to see that."
Parker, a football player, and Fisher, a soccer player, are hoping to be the sparks that make TMP powerlifting ignite. Montgomery said the most exciting thing about the state experience was listening to the pair talk excitedly about it on the road home and hearing them try to figure out ways to get more people involved.
Montgomery hopes to have enough people out next year to fill at least one spot in each weight class. On top of more lifters, he also wants to get the Monarchs to five or six meets next spring opposed to just two or three.
And with both Cox and Fisher returning to anchor the group despite their limited experience as lifters, TMP is dreaming of bringing home more than one state championship a year from now.
"I was always the smaller guy in the class so I got into weightlifting and it kind of became a thing I was passionate about ... after the first meet I really enjoyed it a lot and state was a great experience," Fisher said. "This re-motivated us to hit it even harder this year and come into next year more focused and ready to do well."