There is something to be said for being at your best when you need to be at your best. For a trio of Denison powerlifters, they spent all season improving on their weight totals and turned that progress into appearances at their respective state meets this month.
Senior Jaydan Hunt and junior Wilson Kirkbride will be competing at state for the first time while junior Kailey Jones qualified for the third straight year. Jones and Hunt will be at the girls state meet this weekend at the Extraco Events Center in Waco while Kirkbride goes to the boys state meet at the Taylor County Expo Center in Abilene next weekend.
For Hunt, it is part of another busy spring. In addition to powerlifting, she is a multiple-year starter on the softball team and trying to return to the regional meet, and eventually state, in both the shot put and discus next month.
“It’s benefiting me in more ways than one,” Hunt said. “It did kinda just happen. I finally got into it last year.”
The training for those sports helped her get to this point in powerlifting. A year ago she was sixth in the regional meet with 800 pounds, a total that was 80 pounds behind the winner at 165 pounds.
“I was just going to do it and see what happens and then at regionals I saw how close I was to state and wanted to try to make it this year,” she said.
This time in her first meet of the season, Hunt had a total of 840 and it went up over the next two meets before winning the region title at 920 pounds. There was a 55-pound gap between her and the runner-up, Nacy Yousif of Frisco Heritage, and more than enough to clear the qualifying weight had Hunt not finished in the top two.
She gained the advantage with a region-best bench of 215 pounds that was the 55-pound margin between her and Yousif to go with the second-best squat and dead lift.
“I pushed myself a lot further than I thought I could. I’ve done a lot better for my second year,” Hunt said. “Being able to try and get the opportunity to be first is incredible.”
Jones has been no stranger to state after jumping right into powerlifting as a freshman. She just missed out on the top three last year with a fourth-place finish in the 165-pound weight class, lifting a total of 890 pounds that was five pounds from third place and 10 pounds from being the state runner-up.
“The season didn’t really end last year; we’ve just kept it rolling,” Jones said. “Right after freshman year, that’s when I became dedicated to it. There’s been that motivation.”
It was a marked improvement from two years ago when Jones was 16th with a total of 750 pounds.
Jones won the region title for the first time — she was the runner-up as a sophomore — with a total of 1,100 pounds. She blew away the competition by nearly 200 pounds as runner-up Ashtyn Burget, the defending region champ, was at 925 pounds.
Burget won in 2016 with 880 pounds but Jones zoomed past her, improving on a combined weight that was at 845 pounds.
“She was able to beat me last year but I was ready,” Jones said.
She dominated in the squat and dead lift to open up the large lead — the field was 100 pounds down after Jones squatted 450 pounds.
Jones followed the same game plan in peaking at the right time. She started the year at 980 pounds and saw that number climb in the next two meets. Her region-winning total at 1,100 would have earned the state title last year by 85 pounds.
“I’ve got some more left in me,” Jones said.
This is the fourth straight season a Lady Yellow Jacket powerlifter has qualified for state and last year was the only time Denison did not sent multiple athletes.
Kirkbride is in a similar situation to Hunt, having to work around baseball this spring. He won the Division 1 Region 6 title at 132 pounds by lifting a total of 1,100 pounds — 120 pounds better than runner-up Edgar Aguirre of Everman. He had the best squat and deadlift in his weight class and was tied with Cedar Hill’s Delaun Leflore for first in the bench press.
But throughout the year he had fluctuated between 132 points and 148 pounds. He set the bar in his opening meet at 1,070 pounds and increased it over the next three meets with a season-best of 1,140 pounds before competing at regionals.
“It’s not easy to stay down in the 132s,” Kirkbride said. “I knew at that weight I had a really good chance so I stuck with that weight this year.”
Kirkbride almost qualified for state last spring as he entered the regional meet with a total that not only met the state minimum weight amount but would have won the region crown at 132 pounds. But he bombed out and had to wait until this year to get there.
“My goal was to get to state,” Kirkbride said. “I’m going to go in looking for a medal and that’s top five. If I get my numbers I’ll be on that stand.”
If he had made it as a sophomore, he would have gone with his brother. Last spring Bowen Kirkbride placed 11th at state at 198 pounds with a total of 1,450 pounds, winning a tie-breaker against Crowley’s Chris Reyes but losing one against Alexis Olalde of Brownsville Lopez. He was five pounds from ninth place and 10 pounds from seventh.
“I started lifting sixth grade summer in my house and stuck with it since then,” Kirkbride said. “And then my brother was lifting in high school. I was a smaller guy but I liked it and maybe I could be pretty good at this too.”