Competitions power trip for McKendree teams

Sport starting to grow, especially at McKeendree

All five members of the McKendree University women’s powerlifting program this past season were freshmen.

That’s a lot of newness, though nothing compared to the Bearcats’ men’s squad (10 freshmen).

The NCAA Division II school’s athletics department upped the number of sports offered to 26 with the introduction of the men’s and women’s powerlifting.

Although not considered mainstream, competitive powerlifting — the blending of dead lifts, squats and bench-presses (each competitor getting three tries at each) — has its share of ardent supporters.

Count former Greenwood Community High School student Lindsey Raker among them.

“I played softball in high school but wasn’t that great. Lifting became my passion, and it grows on you,” said Raker, who remembers becoming serious about competitive powerlifting as a high school junior. “I didn’t know what else was out there besides Greenwood High School.

“My freshman year of college definitely opened my eyes to what I can accomplish and made me work even harder.”

Raker gravitates toward hours of whatever training is going to make her stronger and more technically sound. The competitions themselves present different challenges.

“We fly everywhere we go, so we get there a day or two early,” said Raker, noting the first order of business is the equipment check. “There’s normally three days (of competition), and each weight class is assigned a day.

“Mine are normally on a Saturday because I’m about average for a girl. I’ll get there and weigh in. You have to make weight or you don’t compete.”

As if this weren’t challenging enough for men’s and women’s lifters, the USAPL implemented new weight classes effective this past Jan. 1 — or smack dab in the middle of McKendree’s season.

“The 148 (pound) class was all the way up to Jan. 1, and then the USAPL changed it,” said Raker of the switch to 158.50 pounds. “It was the first time they had done that, but it actually helped me quite a bit because I didn’t like cutting down to 148.”

Raker’s strategy for maintaining her weight is somewhat simple: Small portions of food, an abundance of cardio, no bread and no food consumed after 10 p.m.

So far, it’s working.

“Lindsey did really well this year. Her biggest strides are that she’s a lot more proficient technically, but also her lifts are going up,” McKendree powerlifting coach Andrew Rauen said.

“She’s made leaps and bounds with her training, but when you’re on that platform it’s about living in that moment.”

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at