Power lifting is not currently an East Carolina University official sport, but that hasn’t stopped freshman Harrison Conner from earning a national title in the event.
Conner is a health and fitness major weighing in at 145 pounds. Before he began powerlifting, Conner dabbled in cross country, and in the ninth grade, ran a half marathon in only one hour and 37 minutes. To put that into perspective, that is equal to a less than an eight-minute mile pace. The half marathon included a field of 1,000 people of all ages, but Conner finished 50th overall.
No doubt an impressive feat on feet, but the most impressive thing about Conner might just be his weight lifting totals from the powerlifting national championship he attended on Oct.13 in Orlando, Florida. At the meet, Conner maxed out at 457 pounds in squat, 282 pounds in the bench press and 530 pounds in the deadlift, all adding together for an ultimate 1,270 total pounds. Conner used these numbers and good lift marks on 5-of-9 of his lifts to propel him to the powerlifting national title.
Conner’s hard work and dedication has impressed those around him as well. His roommate, Jalen Spruill, a junior political science major, sees it first hand and says it inspires him.
“I am in awe to see someone his age be dedicated and have a ton of discipline when it comes to his training,” Spruill said. “I can honestly say it is quite inspiring and rubs off on others around him, myself included.”
To the naked eye, it might seem pretty simple, but the sport gets quite complex. To succeed, the athlete has to know his or her body very well. Conner said the lifter needs to know what his or her body is capable of, weight wise, in order to ensure they don’t get stuck on a weight they can’t lift.
“You get three attempts on squat, bench and deadlift,” Conner said. “You also have three judges at three different angles to determine if the lift is a bad lift or a good lift and once you decide to attempt a lift you can’t go back down, you can only try that same weight again or go up.”
Conner’s routine is consistent with the lifts of a football player and the food consumption of a swimmer. Conner also drinks more than a gallon of water a day just to keep his muscles and joints healthy. But even with all of the sleep, food and water, Conner says he still feels the aches and pains in his muscles and joints from lifting weights all day.
“Powerlifting is a big commitment because not only do I train for 2-3 hours a day, I also have to get eight hours of sleep to ensure a proper recovery,” Conner said. “I have to eat 4-6 meals a day, and sometimes when I’m not even hungry, I have to eat just to fuel my body. I am still sore for most of the week, but in the end it’s worth it.”
Aches or not, Conner is a national champion. He said he’s proud of it and attributes it to all his hard work and dedication.
“It feels reassuring being a national champion because of how much work I put in day-in and day-out to get stronger and become a better lifter and stronger person,” Conner said.
Conner can now call himself a national champion after achieving the ultimate goal in his sport and all sports alike. He is currently in his year-long training in order to defend his title that will be on the line again next October, with the date not yet set.