Felissa Ponce de Leon first powerlifting state champion in La Joya history
A pair of Lady Lobos and Lady Rattlers brought medals back to the Valley after competing amongst the best across Texas at the Girls State Powerlifting Meet March 17 and 18 in Waco.
Palmview senior Felissa Ponce de Leon won a state championship in the 148-pound class, becoming the first student-athlete to accomplish the goal in La Joya Independent School District history.
Palmview junior Laisha Lopez (left) and senior Felissa Ponce de Leon with their medals from the Girls State Powerlifting Meet. Lopez finished fourth in the 105-pound division and Ponce de Leon won the State championship in the 148-pound division. Progress Times Photo by, Bryan Ramos
“It honestly means that anything is possible,” Ponce de Leon said. “We all start somewhere. I’m the perfect example, it just takes dedication, meal prepping, you have to be mentally strong, physically and emotionally. I’ve grown tremendously through this.”
Palmview powerlifting Head Coach Renzo Tamez said the way Ponce de Leon worked her way to a state championship in her senior year came strictly from her committment.
“Day-in-day-out, she was here always working, always asking what can I do? She was confident and I was confident in her that she would do well. She knew what she had to do and she knew it was possible. You always want to have that from a student-athlete that will do anything to make themselves better.”
In Ponce de Leon’s sophomore year, she posted a total of 705 pounds lifted. After finishing fourth in state last year, Ponce de Leon lifted an impressive 1,075 pounds this year – squatting 450, benching 220 and deadlifting 405.She shattered her personal squat record of 410 pounds by 40 pounds, a number she was focused on topping this year on the biggest stage.
“I felt very accomplished and proud,” she said. “By 40 pounds, it wasn’t just by 5 or 10. I’ve come along way and I’ve worked really hard for it. You have to go beyond your comfort zone, if not you’re never going to know what you’re capable of.”
Palmview junior Laisha Lopez, a former cheerleader who gave up the sport to focus on powerlifting, finished fourth in the 105-pound class by lifting 705 total pounds. Lopez’ 170 pound bench press set a record in the 105-pound weight class. The next closest bench press score was 150 pounds of Lopez’ and she is eager to break her own record as a senior next year.
“It was amazing, especially knowing this is my first year at state,” Lopez said. “This was amazing for me and I’m hoping to break my own bench record next year.”
The Sharyland duo of senior Brissa Ramirez and junior Amanda Rodriguez brought a second place and fourth place medal for their performances at the State Meet. With powerlifting being an individual sport, the pair has worked together every step of the way, pushing each other to be their best.
“We both support each other a lot,” Ramirez said. :We work out together so we try to go as heavy as we can, we push ourselves and no matter what we’re cheering for each other at the meets.”
Ramirez, a former soccer player, lifted a total of 760 pounds, the highest total she’s hit in her senior season. Her 305 pound squat and 320 pound deadlift at the State Meet were her best performances in any meet this year.
Ramirez, who qualified for state in her three years competing in powerlifting, fell just short of medlaing in her two previous tries at state. As a junior she missed out on a top five finish by just five pounds after bottoming out at state her sophomore year.
“It’s my last year so it was give it your all or nothing,” Ramirez said. “I had to realize that if I had the potential to make it to state the first year that I was in it, that meant I have something. I’m good at what I do so I had to push everything aside and think not everybody gets this far and you have the opportunity so don’t let the nerves get in the way.”
Rodriguez joined her in setting personal bests at State, lifting a season-high total of 745 pounds. Her 290 pound squat, 140 bench press, and deadlift of 315 were all personal bests for the junior.
“Going in, I wanted to give it my all and get the highest I’ve ever gotten and I worked really hard for that,” Rodriguez said. “It was amazing to see the hard work payed off.”
Rodriguez and Ramirez both credited Sharyland powerlifting Head Coach Joe Alex Leal for pushing them to do their best and helping them realize their potential.
“My assistant and I preach on taking care of each other encouraging one another,” Leal said. “They competed with one another, one would win one week and the other would win the other week. They’re fierce competitors who pushed each other and that’s what we expect out of them.”
Next up in powerlifting is the Boys State Meet, which will all take place Saturday at the Taylor County Expo Center in Abilene.
Competing from the Big 7 school’s are Abraham Hernandez (148 pounds, Palmview), Sergio Guerrero (148, Veterans Memorial), Sean De La Garza (165, Veterans Memorial), Diego Hernandez (181, Palmview), Fernando Hernandez (198, Juarez-Lincoln), Obed Hernandez (198, Pioneer), Carlos Zarate (220, Sharyland) and Sam Rodriguez (242, La Joya).