Shelby Miles remembers specifics about her first powerlifting competition, which was hosted by Hobart High School in northern Indiana.
Humble beginnings for the Franklin Community High School senior, who was able to bench-press only 120 pounds — about 80 pounds less than what she can now bench in practice. But she was on her way to the first of many first-place performances.
“It was January of my sophomore year,” Miles said. “The competition was nothing like what I’m doing now.”
Miles is currently preparing for not one, but two world championship powerlifting events in the next three months.
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On April 18, Miles will travel to Rodby, Denmark, to compete in the Bench Press World Championships. Miles is also competing in the Three-Lift World Championship taking place in Killeen, Texas, from June 19-26.
Miles qualified by placing first in her weight division (158 pounds) at the U.S. Powerlifting Nationals in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in October, establishing a new American record for females under age 18 with a bench-press of 189 pounds.
“She won the all-around competition, but her bench press alone qualified her for the event in Denmark,” Franklin Community High School strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Hartman said.
In February, Miles improved upon it by benching 192.9 pounds at the Ohio High School Powerlifting State Championships in Springfield, Ohio. Miles also squatted 297 pounds and deadlifted 380 in earning “Best Lifter” honors.
Powerlifting competitions are composed of the squat, bench-press and deadlift. Three lifts are allowed in each category.
Miles, who had taken weightlifting at Franklin as a freshman, fell in love with powerlifting a year later after playing for the Grizzly Cubs’ volleyball team. Impressed by her dedication, Hartman asked if she would like to be part of the event at Hobart High School.
“I probably enjoy it as much as I do because you learn how to push through the mental struggles and also seeing myself improve. You can see the numbers you’re lifting, but you can also see it with your own body, too,” she said.
Competing three to four times a year, Miles doesn’t have to monitor her weight the way a wrestler would. Wrestlers at the high school level are often in meets three to four times a week during their season.
She does, however, miss pancakes and ice cream as a competition draws near.
“It’s similar to what wrestling does. For us, we have to be more specific. We’re still eating, but once you get closer to a meet you have to monitor your weight more,” she said.
Miles, who is ranked second in her senior class academically with a 4.5 grade-point average and plans to major in nutrition at Indiana University in the fall, hopes to be part of the school’s powerlifting club.
“I would like to take this as far as I can. There are no real age limits for powerlifting, so I would like to do it for as long as I’m able to,” Miles said.
The senior’s upcoming travels are evidence how far the strength-building program has come at Franklin in a relatively short period of time.
“This is something I started for kids who showed extra effort in the weightroom. We’ve gotten national and now international recognition because of these girls’ efforts. There are times they are in here every day Monday through Saturday,” Hartman said.
Miles’ training continues to incorporate all three lifts despite the fact the Denmark venue is strictly bench-pressing. Avoiding the squat and deadlift between now and the event isn’t advisable, he said.
“We’re gearing up for both competitions now. We’re just putting a little more focus on the bench right now,” Hartman said. “The most impressive thing is just her commitment to the bench. Once she set her first American record in October (189 pounds) we just wanted more and more and more.”
Trailing will then be slightly altered to better focus on all three lifts following the competition in Denmark.
“This is my first event doing just the bench-press, but I’ve always been the most confident compared to the other lifts. It’s a little more natural to me than the other ones,” said Miles, who looks forward to traveling abroad for the first time in her life.
“I know the town this meet is in only has about 2,000 people. It’s such a big opportunity that I want to take advantage of it no matter where it is.”
THE MILES FILE
Name: Shelby Miles
Family: Parents, Kent and Deanna; sisters, Miranda, 27, Lauren, 24, and Sadie, 12; brothers, Landon, 20, Dane, 19.
Favorite TV show: “The Profit”
Favorite food: Chicken alfredo
Favorite movie: “The Princess Diaries”
Favorite athlete: Mattie Rogers
Favorite team: Indiana University men’s basketball
Miles has created a GoFundMe account (gofundme.com/aakyx5ms) should anyone wish to help cover her travel expenses to Denmark.
Most foreign countries athletes get paid to compete, but those representing the United States must raise their own funds for travel, entry and general expenses.