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Ballard County high school student wins powerlifting national championship

Abby Hargrove receiving her first-place medal.
Ballard County Schools
Abby Hargrove (middle) receiving her first-place medal.

A high school student from Ballard County recently brought home a national championship in powerlifting, bringing residents out in the streets to cheer her on when she got home.

Seventeen-year-old Abby Hargrove, a senior at Ballard Memorial High School, said she first got into powerlifting as a freshman watching her father and another student lifting at her family’s backyard gym. Her father Nathaniel Hargrove competed in national Strongman strength competitions.

The years of training led her to winning a USA Powerlifting High School Nationals championship last weekend near Chicago. Competitors have three tries to lift the most weight in each lifting competition: the squat, bench press and deadlift. The top scores from each lift are added together for a total score.

Hargrove lifted more than 800 pounds total for the win: 319 pounds in the squat, 150 pounds in the bench press and 336 pounds for the deadlift. For reference, an average western lowland gorilla weighs around 300 pounds.

“People are just usually in shock that a little 17-year-old high school girl can deadlift more than them,” she said.

She said her family knew she had won the championship after her second try at the deadlift, something she didn’t realize until after she was done because she was “zoned out” and focused on the competition. Her father was particularly emotional about the win.

“My family caught pictures of him in the background of when I won,” she said. “He was back there like sobbing. He couldn’t believe it.”

Hargrove said once she got back home, the community brought ambulances and firetrucks out for a parade to celebrate her win, with residents lining the streets.

“It was absolutely amazing. This little town is very supportive of me,” she said.

She said she plans to continue competitive weightlifting in college while pursuing a degree in aviation at Eastern Kentucky University.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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