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Daily Journal
     March 30, 2022      #77-89 KDJ
Kankakee powerlifter junior Steven Young squats during a summer workout last year. Young and teammate Jerika Harris competed at this year's USA Powerlifting High School Teen Nationals in Lombard last weekend.

Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette

Kankakee powerlifters make school history

By Cody Smith

Two years ago, Brandon Brown started a powerlifting program at Kankakee with hopes to increase his student-athletes’ strength and quickness.

Brown started the program in 2020 with only a handful of student-athletes and since has grown the program to 16 kids, two of which just made school history by qualifying for this year’s annual USA Powerlifting High School Teen Nationals in Lombard.

“I’ve seen our program progress a lot since starting it back in 2020,” Brown said. “When we first started the powerlifting program, nationals wasn’t even on our radar, but just seeing our team start to develop and gain more kids in our program over the past two years, it’s almost unreal.”

Kankakee’s Jerika Harris and Steven Young made the trip north to compete against hundreds of student-athletes across the nation after meeting the events’ difficult qualification criteria.

Leading the way for the Kays was none other than Young, who finished fourth overall out of eight student-athletes in the 308-pound division after totaling 1,397 pounds between his squat (501 pounds), bench (336 pounds) and deadlift (562 pounds).

“It felt great to take fourth at nationals,” Young said. “I went in as one of the lightest ones in my weight class, and so to be able to put up the numbers I did was kind of crazy.”

Young’s deadlift of 562 pounds broke his own school record, which made the trip to nationals that much more meaningful.

“It felt great to be able to record a 562-pound deadlift,” Young said. “... I was pretty ecstatic about that because I not only set a new personal record but I set a new school record, too.”

In addition to Young’s display of strength on the boys side, Kankakee also turned some heads on the girls side thanks to the performance of Harris.

The senior powerlifter placed 11th out of 13 girls in the 181-pound division. Harris totaled 655 pounds between her squat (259 pounds, bench (143 pounds) and deadlift (253 pounds).

“It meant a lot to take 11th at nationals,” Harris said. “It’s a pretty big accomplishment considering nobody has ever done that before and the fact that powerlifting is kind of a new sport here at Kankakee.

“It was a really good experience, and there were a lot of different people from around the world there, and so it’s nice to get that exposure.”

The ability to compete against the nation’s best helped Harris set a personal-record on her squat with 259 pounds, which is something she always will remember.

“My favorite part about going to nationals was being able to squat 259 pounds because for me personally I really had to fight for that, and I never gave up.”

Both student-athletes will be looking to outpace their nationals performances at IHSAPL state in May.

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Kankakee powerlifting coach Brandon Brown prepares to spot junior Jerika Harris as she bench presses during a workout last summer. Harris and teammate Steven Young competed at the USA Powerlifting High School Teen Nationals in Lombard last weekend.

Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette