By Dylan Powell, Head Sports Writer
Photos from Zariah Valentine
The McKendree Powerlifting team participated in the first matchup of the season on October 16 in St. Louis at the USA Powerlifting Series Finals, but under an unprecedented circumstance: they were without a coach. In late September of this year, Coach Guillermo Blanco departed from McKendree.
“The current situation with the coaching is that we don’t have a coach or even adult supervision to make sure we are fine,” says Zariah Valentine, a freshman. “It affects my season a lot because I won’t have anyone in my corner to calm me down or be my motivation during a meet. It’s going to be hard to do literally everything by myself at a meet.” Despite the departure, former Coach Blanco still checks in with the team, leaving them with programs and workouts if needed.
This change has created a mentally tougher, grittier team. The athletes have had to communicate among each other to plan workout times and dates, finding ways to add structure to the program.
Sophomore team member Dominique Donegan said, “The current situation with the coach, while unfortunate, has made this team stronger. We are checking in on each other and pushing each other to reach our full potentials, which I know Blanco would be proud of. Everyone brings a leadership quality to this team that aids in filling that space of not having a coach.” They have found ways to adjust to the loss, approaching the coming start of the season with a positive attitude and a championship-winning mindset.
“We have been working really hard to try to qualify for nationals and win a national championship,” shared Jordon Spence, a junior member of the team. At Saturday’s meet, the Bearcats had a great performance, earning several new personal records.
Valentine explained, “The meet went pretty well without a coach. We are a big team, so we have each other’s back no matter what. Even if we had a coach, nothing would change, so us having each other’s back was better than nothing. It was difficult in the beginning since it was my first USAPL meet, but like I said when you have a team nothing is impossible.”
This speaks to the fight both powerlifting teams will continue to have throughout the season. When asked about the first match without a coach and about the potential of continued success among the team, Valentine said: “Yes, absolutely; the success we currently have will continue. We don’t need a coach to be successful. We did fine this past Saturday without a coach. We were successful. We are going to continue to improve this season without a coach.” One key takeaway from my conversations with the members of the powerlifting team on campus was that the morale of this team has risen, and they have made an impact already, with the season only just beginning.
In life, nothing is guaranteed. However, one current guarantee is that regardless of the adversity that has been faced by this McKendree sports team, they still have one focus right now: continuation of success and competitive performance. The Bearcats will return to competition on December 12 at the USA Powerlifting Missouri River Open in St. Louis. Best of luck to our McKendree powerlifting teams; anything is possible with dedication and hard work!