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Women’s powerlifting club wins sport’s world cup

The Northeastern University women’s powerlifting club pushed and pulled its way to a dominating victory in a prestigious global competition held in Belarus last week. The win, in the Inter­na­tional Pow­er­lifting Fed­er­a­tion’s inau­gural Uni­ver­sity Pow­er­lifting World Cup, comes on the heels of Northeastern’s victory in the raw division of the 2016 USA Pow­er­lifting Col­le­giate National Cham­pi­onships in April.

“I couldn’t be more proud of how the team performed,” said Kelsey McCarthy, BHS’17, a four-​​year soccer player turned cap­tain of the women’s pow­er­lifting club. “It shows how hard we trained and how committed we were.”

The competition con­vened more than 50 female lifters from 22 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in 11 coun­tries, including Russia, Fin­land, and Australia. Of the seven Northeastern lifters, five won their respective weight classes, amassing the highest combined totals in the raw squat, bench-press, and deadlift. The three best totals, regardless of weight class, belonged to Northeastern lifters: Monet Bland, MS’16, who competed in the 161- to 183-pound weight class, lifted a competition-best 1009 pounds; Bin­glei Zhou, SSH’18, who competed in the 185-pound and up weight class, lifted 965 pounds; and McCarthy, who competed in the 141- to 158-pound weight class, lifted 937 pounds.

McCarthy, a second-year powerlifter who was part of the Huskies’ 2013 and 2014 soccer teams that reached the NCAA Tournament, is still trying to find the words to describe the thrill of the victory. “It’s kind of indescribable,” she said. “I didn’t see myself competing at a prestigious world championship so early in my lifting career, let alone walking away with a gold medal in my weight class.”

Kelsey McCarthy deadlifted 408 pounds at the inaugural University Powerlifting World Cup, which was held in Belarus.

Kelsey McCarthy deadlifted 408 pounds at the inaugural University Powerlifting World Cup, which was held in Belarus.

Bland—a fourth-year powerlifter whose first-place finish did not count toward Northeastern’s point total because she graduated in May—is looking to build on her success in Belarus by placing in the top five at the 2016 Powerlifting Raw National Championship in October.

She attributed much of her success to Northeastern powerlifting coach Michael Zaw­ilinski, who also happens to be the leader of Team USA’s pow­er­lifting pro­gram. The most important piece of advice she’s received from him, she said, is to be patient and keep grinding. “When I first started, I was a pretty average lifter,” said Bland, whose impressive performances in both national and international competitions over the past four years have led to major sponsorships with Anderson Powerlifting, an exercise equipment store, and Doughnuts & Deadlifts, a lifestyle brand. “But I stuck with it and just kept lifting.”

When Bland strides up to the powerlifting platform to perform a lift, she is nothing less than supremely focused. As she put it, “I take a few seconds to think about what I need to do to execute the lift, then I grab the bar.” McCarthy, for her part, works hard to fend off  pre-competition anxiety before squatting and then typically calms down before bench-pressing and deadlifting. “Once the first lift is over,” she said, “I kind of settle down and go from there.”

Both athletes agreed that Northeastern’s strong performance in Belarus would improve the club’s internal and external visibility, helping them to recruit more experienced lifters while drawing the attention of powerhouse programs worldwide. McCarthy is particularly focused on preparing the club to win both the raw and equipped national championship in 2017, and there’s good reason to believe in this group. “The members of this team are committed to their training, to performing well, and to the sport in general,” she said.