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Seadrift native lands spot as alternate for USAPL Worlds meet

By Julie Garcia
Aug. 9, 2014 at 5:27 p.m.
Updated Aug. 9, 2014 at 10:32 p.m.

Looking up to focus, Marissa Martinez, 18, of Seadrift, warms up and gradually adds weight for each set of squats at her powerlifting practice at Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca. Her best in squats is 325 pounds.

DONATE

• First National Bank in Port Lavaca, Port O'Connor and Victoria under the name "Marissa Marie Martinez"

• Jar at Bubba's Cajun Seafood, 809 Adams St., Seadrift

Marissa Martinez, 18, Seadrift

PERSONAL RECORDS

• Deadlift: 360 pounds; record-holder at the 2014 Region 5, Division 1 regional meet in the 123-pound weight class; 370 in practice

• Bench press: 175 pounds at meet; 190 pounds in practice

• Squat: 325 pounds

SEADRIFT - Three times a week, Marissa Martinez drives from her hometown of Seadrift to Port Lavaca to bench, lift and squat hundreds of pounds at Calhoun High School.

During summer vacation months, the Calhoun senior splits her time between working as a waitress at Bubba's Cajun Seafood in Seadrift and the weight room.

For the 18-year-old, powerlifting is more than a sport - it's an addiction.

More than that, powerlifting is her ticket to see life beyond Seadrift.

Martinez hopes that being a nationally ranked powerlifter provides a way for her to see different parts of Texas, the country and, eventually, the world.

Year-round competitor

One week after winning the gold medal in the Texas High School Women's Powerlifting meet in Corpus Christi, Martinez put her suit and powerlifting belt back on to compete at the USA Powerlifting High School Nationals in March.

Martinez, who competes in the 123-pound weight class, scored an 860-pound total to earn a silver medal at the meet and a chance to compete at the 14th Sub-Junior and 32nd Junior World Powerlifting Championships in Oroshaza, Hungary, in September.

The total is compiled by three lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift. Martinez squatted 314 pounds, deadlifted 369 pounds and benched 176 pounds - none of which are her personal best lifts.

The top eight powerlifters per weight class in the country are chosen for the Worlds team; Martinez's accomplishments have placed her on the team as first alternate.

Powerlifting is not sanctioned as a University Interscholastic League sport; therefore, high school competitors must pay their way to most meets.

Though unlikely to make the trip to Hungary next month because only two per weight class can attend, Martinez is still raising funds for year-round competitions across Texas and the country.

The trip would have cost about $4,000 for Martinez and her mother, Marie, to go to the world meet.

"(Martinez) has decided her senior year that she wants to focus on that a lot; she wants to go to meets and really do this and go out with a bang," said Calhoun powerlifting coach Jason Bagwell. "Any time you keep practicing a sport, you're going to get better."

Stronger than the boys

With four brothers, Martinez was exposed to "boy sports" early on.

Though petite, she watched her brothers weight train, and her interest was piqued.

That small introduction led her to join Calhoun's then six-time, now nine-time, state championship-winning powerlifting team as a freshman.

"In my last meet of my freshman year, I was 5 pounds short to make regionals," Martinez said. "So, my goal for my sophomore year was to make regionals and go to state."

As a sophomore in 2013, Martinez took home the silver medal at state. This past year as a junior, she won gold.

"It's become so competitive to make it and be a part of the team," Bagwell said. "You've got 35 girls that come out, and you have to make cuts. This year, we had 16 girls go to state."

Bagwell said it takes a special kid to commit to powerlifting.

"Marissa has the traits that most people who excel in this sport have: You have to be self-motivated," Bagwell said. "I can give her a workout and leave, and I know she's going to do it."

During the school year, practice starts at 5:30 a.m.

"You're not going to come to do something at 5:30 in the morning unless you really want to," Bagwell said. "You know if someone's here, they're here because they want to be."

Martinez also runs cross-country for Calhoun - another sport with early start times.

"It takes a special kid to do something that hurts and is painful," Bagwell said of powerlifting. "The stuff they wear hurts, cuts, makes them bleed - it's not a sport for babies; it's pretty rough, but they're doing it because they love it."

Extended family support

Powerlifting meets have become a family affair for the Martinez family and the Seadrift community.

Though Martinez's dad, Angel, can't attend all of the meets because of his job, her mom makes sure he and everyone at Bubba's, where she also works, are a part of the action.

"We record all of her lifts, and then text results to everyone," Marie Martinez said. "Her dad loves to show them off - all you can hear is us screaming in the background."

Marie Martinez said many people in Seadrift are rooting for her daughter.

"Everyone's family knows everyone here, and they're proud of what she's done," her mother said.

Bagwell has had lifters in Martinez's position before who hold fundraisers to aid their competitive efforts.

"People have rallied to help her with her cause here; it's appreciated," Bagwell said. "These are things they may never have the chance to do again, (and) you don't want them to be held back from something because of money."

Martinez is raising money to travel to Wisconsin for the USA Powerlifting High School Nationals in March. She will also be traveling to San Antonio for a state competition later this year.

Besides a jar at Bubba's, Martinez has an account set up at First National Bank under the name "Marissa Marie Martinez."

Plans for a bake sale and carwash are also in the works.

Life after powerlifting

Not many colleges offer powerlifting as a sport, let alone scholarship opportunities for incoming freshmen.

Martinez plans to focus on her academics during college.

"I'm very interested in science," she said. This year, she is taking anatomy, psychology/sociology and advanced-placement biology.

Eventually, Martinez wants to go into cancer research to become an oncologist.

Until then, she will continue donning a singlet and lifting heavy weights. Then, she'll run a few miles before sitting down in the classroom.

"Those type of people have the personality already to have these big goals in life," Bagwell said.

Now, her brothers challenge Martinez to see who can lift the most.

"They say 'We're going to beat Marissa,'" Marie Martinez said.

But don't underestimate the quiet waitress from Seadrift - she'll surprise you.

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