Rapid City’s Maria Young always saw herself as an athlete. But even she never fully realized what she could do until she met Steve Howard.

Now she holds national records for unassisted squat and deadlift in the 18-19 year-old, 72-kilogram division after putting up a 210-pound squat and a 270-pound deadlift at the Raw National Powerlifting Championships in Orlando, Fla., from July 19-21.

Asked whether or not she thought she had a chance to set American marks before she went to Orlando, Young said it took a while to come around to the realization.

“Steve, my trainer, told me he thought I did,” she said. “I was kind of skeptical at first. Then I did some research and some creeping on Facebook and checked out some of the girls who were going to be there and thought I might be able to get pretty close.”

She got close and then took the marks down, setting new standards for her age and weight in a relatively new type of powerlifting. The Raw Nationals are a competition designed for lifters to compete without the aid of lifting suits, belts or wraps of any kind.

Howard said he wasn’t terribly surprised by Young’s success, despite the fact that she picked up the sport just two years ago.

“She’s got some pretty good deadlift talent and she was able to do some pretty good lifts when she was doing her strength and conditioning work for improving her volleyball,” Howard said of when he first realized Young, then a Rapid City Stevens volleyball player, might have a proclivity for powerlifting. “At first she displayed a little more strength than other girls her age. She just had a bit of a knack for strength.”

Young, who was introduced to the sport by her mother Vassilia, an accomplished powerlifter in her own right, says Howard took that knack and developed it into something that she never would have imagined two years ago.

“When I started lifting with Steve, I had always been in volleyball and other sports so weight training was familiar to me but I didn’t know a lot about it. I just really liked it and he saw something in me and pushed me and helped me do things that I didn’t even know I could,” Young said. “I ended up losing like 30 pounds and getting stronger. I just really liked it. He helped transform my mind and my body, I guess you could say. My mindset has completely changed. It has made me realize that I can do a lot more than I ever thought.”

Now Young, an exercise science major at Boise State University, hopes she can do the same for someone down the road.

“I knew that I wanted to go into personal training because when I started lifting with Steve I really loved it, and I really loved that he believed in me. I want to be able to do that for other people and that’s why I got into that,” Young said. “I figured if I could do that for someone else that that would be pretty cool.”

Howard isn’t sure how far Young will be able to take her powerlifting talents – she leaves the Teen Division for 18-19 year-olds when she turns 20 in November to move into the more competitive Junior Division for 20-23-year-olds – but he says she always has an ace in the hole.

“She has great deadlift talent, which is kind of like being able to make the last shot in a basketball game,” Howard said. “You can go up there for that last lift knowing what you need and put it on the bar.”

Howard also said that Young’s mental makeup can be an advantage.

“She is willing to do the work but she’s also very calm,” Howard said. “A lot of lifters almost go out there angry, stomping around and things. She’s not like that at all. She’s just very calm and looks at what she needs to do and goes to work.”

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