There were different reasons they found themselves in the weight room but it has all led to a common result.

There were different reasons they found themselves in the weight room but it has all led to a common result.

For junior Skye Johnson, it was going to bolster her work in the pole vault.

"You really need a lot of core and arm strength to propel yourself over the crossbar," Johnson said. "It’s really helped a lot."

For freshman Laura Martinez, it was a curiosity that carried over from junior high phys ed class.

"We would go to the weight room. When I got to high school I would see how it goes," Martinez said. "When I got into powerlifting, I didn’t even know if I was going to be good at it or not."

For seniors Justin Bigelow and Sergio Orona, it was a way to hold their ground on the gridiron.

"Freshman year I was not that strong at all," Orona said. "My coaches pushed me and then I pushed myself."

Added Bigelow: You’ve got guys who do it for football and the guys who do it for football and then really become a powerlifter."

These four Denison athletes will be competing at the top level of Texas high school powerlifting with upcoming trips to the Division I state tournaments.

Johnson and Martinez are headed to the girls state meet this weekend in Corpus Christi while Bigelow and Orona participate at the boys state meet next weekend in Abilene.

To have representatives at both state events is a first for Denison, because the girls powerlifting team was only implemented a few years ago. While the school normally has at least one boy in the mix to make it to state every year, Johnson and Martinez are the first Lady Jackets to qualify.

"It’s phenomenal to be motivation for other girls," Martinez said. "They see it’s possible that they can do it too."

Both Martinez and Johnson qualified for state after reaching the automatic weight requirements. The top two lifters in each weight division go to state along with any others who put up a certain amount.

The Lady Jacket duo accomplished that with their third-place totals.

Martinez had a combined 545 pounds (195 squat, 80 bench, 270 dead lift) at 97 pounds, which was 50 pounds over the state minimum.

"It was a goal to auto qualify. I had already done it so it was expected," Martinez said. "I’m going to work on getting personal records and gaining experience for if I get back to state again."

Johnson, who was sixth at regionals last year, came up with 580 pounds (205 squat, 100 bench, 275 dead lift) at 105 pounds, which was 15 pounds over the state minimum. However she entered regionals 30 pounds below the qualifying weight.

"I made sure the weights were what I needed," Johnson said. "Having gone to regionals last time, state was the goal. You don’t know what state is until you get there. We haven’t experienced that yet."

Bigelow was the Region 6 champion earlier this month at 275 pounds as the Yellow Jackets finished third overall. He set a region record with a total of 1,835 pounds (725 squat, 455 bench and 655 dead lift) and he earned awards as the meet’s outstanding squatter and for outstanding total.

This will be the second straight appearance at state for Bigelow, who was fifth in his weight class as a junior with a total of 1,630 pounds.

"If I don’t win it’ll be disappointing," he said. "I just have to have a good day. If I hit all my bests, that’s 1,905 pounds and I haven’t hit them all in one day."

Bigelow has a shot at the divisional records in his weight class in the squat, which was set last year at 805 pounds, and the deadlift of 690 set in 2005. The overall total of 1,900, set in 2002 and matched in 2005 is also within his sights.

"I’m going to hit whatever I’m going to hit. Regionals I thought I could break a couple records but state’s the main thing," said Bigelow, a two-time first-team all-district center. "I think the best is to come."

Orona, who was eighth at the regional meet last spring, finished as the runner-up at 242 pounds with a total of 1,500 pounds (550 squat, 375 bench, 575 deadlift) — just 30 pounds from claiming the region title.

"I improved vastly from last year. If two guys didn’t bomb out, I would have been 10th," Orona said. "Leaving regionals last year I was not happy. Right after football ended, we started working."

The work has certainly paid off. After being an all-district defensive lineman, Orona saw his totals climb to where he is 300 pounds better than this point a year ago. He knows he can put up a higher total at state after making sure his regional total would at least be good enough to get him there.

"It’s exciting. It really is," Orona said. "It’s nice to see your hard work pay off."