Competing in a sport that many athletes use as the basis for training in theirs, Denison senior Kailey Jones didn’t know what powerlifting would bring after she graduated.

Maybe there would be an opportunity to compete at the Olympic level, but the work and practice would have to be done on her own time. Her successful junior season eventually put her on a national, then global level and has provided the opportunity to continue competing after she finishes her run as the most successful Lady Yellow Jacket powerlifter.

“I’m pretty blessed to compete at the next level and have everything taken care of. I’m super excited,” Jones said. “I had no idea about competing collegiately and now there’s this opportunity.”

Jones signed her national letter of intent on Thursday morning to lift for Midland University, an NAIA program in Nebraska.

“It liked it a lot. The school, we loved the school,” she said. “The setup with the weight room, everything was really good.”

Jones hopes to enter the fledgling program as a two-time champion as the beginning of the season is underway with the culmination at the state meet in March. As she prepares for her first meet at home this weekend, she is already lifting more than her winning total from last year.

“I want to surpass my records and get the ones I didn’t get,” she said. “State is definitely the focus and how well I can finish. The pressure definitely has been placed heavier on me.”

Jones won the gold medal at the International Powerlifting Federation’s 17th World Sub-Junior Championship in Orlando in September. She lifted a total of 1,080 pounds in the 181 pound weight class for the victory, which was 61 pounds more than runner-up Nichole Viera of Puerto Rico.

Russia’s Svetlana Saburova was third with 898 pounds.

The 1,080 pounds was the fifth-best total for the entire meet and helped the United States earn the silver medal with 54 points, two behind Russia for the team title.

“At that level, everyone is crazy strong. It was definitely shocking when it happened,” Jones said. “Being around people like that has really helped me.”

At the 35th annual U.S. Powerlifting Open National Championships, also held in Orlando, in May, Jones set a pair of national powerlifting records in her age group and won with a record 1,080 pounds and as part of that set the mark by squatting 462 pounds.

Jones first earned the state championship in her weight class in March when she was on the right side of a tie-breaker with College Station’s Katie Lollar at a total of 1,140 pounds, which is a state record at the weight class. She got there by deadlifting 445 pounds, also a state record at that weight class.

Jones went into that lift down 35 pounds after she squatted 450 pounds and benched 245 pounds — efforts that were better than everyone but Lollar. She set the state meet record with that bench press before Lollar surpassed her by five pounds.

As a freshman she qualified for state and finished 16th with a total of 750 pounds. Then as a sophomore, she was fourth in the 165-pound weight class with a total of 890 pounds that was five pounds from third and 10 pounds from being the state runner-up.

“All the hard work has paid off,” Jones said. “That’s why I love powerlifting. I have to hold myself accountable for what I do. If I can’t lift the weight, it’s on nobody but me.”

Midland University started its powerlifting program in the spring of 2016. Six of the 22 athletes on the current co-ed roster hail from Texas. In April, the Lady Vikings finished ninth at the USAPL College National Championships to cap the program’s first varsity season.

Head coach Tim Anderson, a national powerlifting champion himself, told Jones that her top lifts would put her among the best on the roster.

“He told me that I’d already set school records and they are looking at my potential,” Jones said. “It’s cool to be able to compare myself and see where I stand.”