Miles Powerlifting raises the bar

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

Walking up to the old gymnasium at Miles High School, you might think a Marine drill instructor is inside conducting calisthenics. The booming voice can be heard several yards before you get to the door, reverberating in the old gym, "One! Two! Three! Four! Five!" Immediately afterward the distinct sound of weights being moved around can be heard, the voice now counting down, "Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!" For a brief second silence takes over. Then the voice begins counting from 1 to five, again.

The Miles Powerlifting Team: (L-R) Back row:  Colin Steward, Eli Sanchez, Caleb Seara, Emily Sklenarik, Alexa Schwertner, Anabel Villarruel, coach David Buitron.
Front: Athletic Director Jayson Wilhelm, Raddick Spatz, Whitney Halfmann, Hana Khoutek, , Jackie Meyers, Payton Branham.

That strong, confident, voice doesn't belong to a Marine drill instructor, it belongs to Miles Powerlifting coach David Buitron, who has built an impressive program, "My pitch is that Powerlifting will help you out in every other sport and in your every day life."

A powerlifting athlete lifts during workouts while fellow student Colin Steward looks on.

There is no wasted time in the gym. The athletes are either lifting weights, changing out weights, or spotting their partner as Buitron's voice takes over again, "One! Two!..."

The powerlifters get 5 seconds in between reps as they swap out with each other. The reason that they hurry isn't because they're afraid of some repercussions, they hurry because they respect Buitron and his program, "We emphasize culture, helping each other out. Routine becomes habit. Habit becomes culture. Colin Steward is a senior. He doesn't do powerlifting himself, but he comes in to help out the others." 

Buitron's eyes light up the moment he starts talking about powerlifting. It's obvious that it's more than his job, it's his passion. A fact which makes the success of the program all the sweeter, "We have Anabel Villarruel who tied for 1st in Coahoma and Radek Spatz is in 1st place in the region." Villarruel says that the program has had some surprises, "I didn't expect to be as strong as I am and to be able to deadlift the weight. I was surprised at how much weight I was able to lift. I tied for 1st place and I lifted more weight than I had ever lifted before."

Overall, the program at this small, close-knit school has 7 athletes currently in the top 12 in Region. The program requires dedication and commitment. Those two qualities equal success at the meets. Bruiton credits the approach of the athletes to their success, "Our kids are coachable and they'll do whatever we ask. If you ask, me, we have the best kids in the state. We had to be up here at 4:15 a.m. one morning to go to a meet. I arrived 30 minutes early thinking that I'd be the only one here. When I got to the parking lot, I saw that the kids had already beat me here. They're dedicated to the program."

Bruiton says that another athlete, Whitney Halfmann, exceeded her own expectations at the Coahoma meet, "She got a gold medal. She lifted 640 lbs overall and deadlifted 280s lbs. She'd never deadlifted that much weight prior to the meet." Halfmann says that there is a lot of positive energy at the meets, "I've played other sports, but I've never felt the kind of energy like we felt at that meet."

Spatz is almost an enigma, a 120 lbs athlete who lifted 875 lbs overall and deadlifted 360 lbs, "You have to focus. You have to have your mind right. In powerlifting you have to set your mind and exceed your own expectations. I get into the zone by listening to some music. I stare at the bar and think about what I can do, and think about doing more." Spatz's ability to lift 3x his own body weight is impressive. All of the athletes exceed other people's expectations. With that being said, they don't exceed their own expectations since any success just means that they set the bar higher.

Miles Powerlifting Coach David Buitron has built a program that is gaining in popularity with a loyal following at Miles ISD.

Buitron says the program is regimented, but it also gives the athletes responsibility, "We have a 16-week program that I set in December. We work on the Big 3; Squats, Bench press and deadlift. The students track their own performance in a notebook. It's their responsibility."

Coach Buitron heads up the powerlifting program under athletic director and head football coach Jason Wilhelm.There is no doubt regarding how Wilhelm feels about the program, "I think coach Buitron is a doing great job. The experience in the weight room has been great for the kids. They're finding new ways to work. They understand it and they all buy into it. We emphasize culture."

Athletes Emily Sklenarik and Alexa Schwertner have found inspiration in the program. Sklenarik said that one aspect that surprised her was the safety, "We have the wraps and the suits. Coach tapes our knees. There is safety throughout the meets. It's also fast paced which a lot of people don't realize. You have to be in the right mindset. If you're not in the right mindset, that weight is not going to go up."

A junior high student who part of the powerlifting lifts during afternoon workouts.

Schwertner, a senior all-around athlete, compares powerlifting to another sport that she participates in, "Powerlifting is a lot like cross-country. It's very hard, but it's all in your head. You really have to focus. Plus, it also helps you in track because you're going to be stronger than the others."  Sklenarik is looking forward to powerlifting helping her in another sport, "Last year in softball I almost hit a home run. It missed by just a couple of inches. I think this will help me get that home run next time." Bruiton agrees, "Powerlifting makes you more explosive." Halfmann also feels like powerlifting benefits her with other sports, "In basketball and volleyball, powerlifting helps you with your vertical jumping."

There is one aspect to the sport that might surprise you, as Schwertner points out, "I slept in a trash bag." As a matter of fact, almost all of the athletes talked about sleeping in trash bags to make their weight class for the meet. If they get to a meet and are over their weight class, they jump rope to shed those few ounces. The program is dedication at its finest.

Currently, the program has 9 girls and 18 boys as it continues to gain interest. The program breeds a culture of good sportsmanship, as Schwertner points out, "At the meets, the parents cheer for everyone, not just their own children, or their own school, they cheer for all of us."