By Nancy Jane Moore
According to The New York Times, high school girls of all sizes participate in competitive weightlifting in Florida -- the only state to offer such a program.
These young women aren't bodybuilders. Bodybuilders use weight training to shape their bodies. Weightlifters go for strength; their goal is to see how much weight they can lift. It's one of those sports where big is better -- the larger you are and the more muscle you have, the more weight you can lift. To offset the advantage of sheer size, the competitions are divided into weight classes.
It's very thrilling to me to read about young women who are excited about becoming strong -- not just fit, but strong. Fitness is a valuable goal, and weight training is an important part of getting fit, but going for strength challenges a lot of stereotypes about the way women "should" be.
The Times reports the girls competing range in size from 93.6 pounds to 379.1 pounds. That's an incredible range of sizes and gives us some perspective on what real women -- fit women, athletic women -- look like.
The larger girls are clearly willing to ignore the conventional ideals of female beauty. According to the Florida High School Athletic Association data, Jessica Reynolds, who bench pressed 250 and hit 210 in the clean and jerk to set a state record in the unlimited weight class, weighs 261 pounds.
But it's not just the big women who are strong. Heather Wolfe, who won the lightest weight class (101 pounds), weighed in at 99.6, yet benched 125 pounds and did 130 in the clean and jerk -- that is, she lifted more than her own weight in both events. In fact, the winners in all the weight classes except the 183 pound, 199 pound and unlimited ones lifted more than their body weight in both events. That's strong.
The Times has a video of these young women, which shows what they look like and what they can do.
Oh, and the headline? That's on a t-shirt favored by high school girl weightlifters in Florida.
Photo: A small slice of a NY Times shot showing the audience cheering for the girls in competition.