It is easy for Rice varsity athletic teams to gain campus-wide recognition for their achievements. For other, unaffiliated students, however, athletic accomplishments often go unlauded. A group of Rice students recently competed in the Texas Strength Classic powerlifting competition in San Antonio, and collectively earned six medals and two first-place titles.

According to McMurtry sophomore Tyler Cox, who won a silver medal in the 93 kg teen event, the meet was a great experience for him and his counterparts.

“[The team’s success] means so much,” Cox said. “We all go to the gym regularly and dedicate ourselves to improving our strength year-round. I feel like we rarely get a chance to showcase our hard work, but this meet was the perfect opportunity for that. It feels extremely good to get recognition.”

In addition to Cox, five other Rice students earned medals. McMurtry junior Raul Rondon earned a gold medal in the 93 kg junior division, McMurtry junior Dan Xiang earned a silver medal in the 93 kg junior division, Sid Richardson senior Ariel Penny earned a gold medal in the 63 kg junior division, Baker sophomore Lewis Carlson earned a bronze medal in the 74 kg junior division, and Hanzsen junior Roger Liang earned a silver medal in the 83 kg junior division.

For most of the team, it was their first powerlifting competition. Penny said that she and the rest of the team were nervous going into the meet, but her team helped her calm down and perform well.

“I was actually the first one of our group to go, so I was definitely on edge,” Penny said. “But after doing my first squat attempt pretty easily and having the crew of Rice guys there cheering me on the whole time, most of my nerves were gone and the adrenaline kicked in. Then it became all about going for new PRs and supporting the boys in their attempts after I finished.”

According to Rondon, the team’s performance was the product of months of hard work.

“Many people don’t realize the countless hours that we powerlifters spend perfecting our form, the hours spent training both our minds and our bodies,” Rondon said. “Like with every sport there are skills that must be developed and fine-tuned.”

Rondon said that in addition to daily training and dieting, he must prepare himself mentally and emotionally for competitions.

“In a normal week I weight lift at the rec 4 times a week for about 2 to 3 hours at a time. Also, training involves a vigorous diet,” Rondon said. “Lastly, meditation is key for me personally. Learning how to tap into your adrenaline and kick starting your fight or flight response at will is key if you want to succeed in this sport.”

According to Rondon, competing to the best of his ability involves finding a balance between failing an attempt and injuring oneself.

“You’re thinking about how to strike the right balance,” Rondon said. “You want to lift as heavy as possible but you don’t want to fail. You want to hit a personal record but you don’t want to injure yourself.”

For each of the competitors, fitness, and lifting in particular, has contributed positively to his or her Rice experience. According to Penny, the group is a community she now considers an integral part of her life on campus.

“Taking the leap into powerlifting, especially as a girl and without much knowledge about the sport, was a risk and could have ended badly - either in injury, or me simply giving up,” Penny said. “But this team has been so welcoming, helpful, and downright fun. They brought me into their circle, no questions asked, and have been nothing but supportive. I'm so happy I met them and had a chance to be a part of this before I graduate.”

According to Rondon, lifting helped curb his childhood obesity and brought him a newfound sense of pride and accomplishment.

“I started powerlifting back in highschool as a means to lose weight and get fit, I was obese back then and I wanted to do something about it,” Rondon said. “I worked out 4hr in the morning and 4hr at night every day over one summer. I lost 56lb and gained a love and respect for lifting weights.”

After posting qualifying marks in the Texas Strength Classic, many members of the team are planning to head to nationals where they will compete with some of the best college powerlifters in the country. The group plans on applying to become an official Rice University student organization this upcoming academic year.