HERSHEY, Pa. - Four years ago, Hershey High School senior David Still had no intention of becoming a powerlifter.
Now he's a 3-time national champ.
"It wasn't until after freshman year of football season that I realized that this even existed," said Still. "I didn't even want to compete originally. I just got into it to get stronger, and turned out, I loved it."
Head coach Troy Smith started the Hershey powerlifting team back in 2004. Hardware lines the walls in the weight room, providing tangible evidence of the Trojans' success. But for coach Smith, trophies aren't the only goal.
"I do it to develop kids not only physically, but develop them mentally and socially," explained Smith. "I always tell them I'm trying to prepare them for when they leave these hallways."
Hershey senior McKenna Lewis agrees that powerlifting takes more than muscles.
"It's mostly mental," said Lewis. "You have to be physically strong enough to lift the weight, but if you think you can't, then you're not going to."
A standout soccer player, Lewis said she had no idea what she was getting herself into when she joined the team three years ago. But since then, her confidence has skyrocketed.
"I didn't think I was a strong person before I started this," said Lewis. "But this kind of changed my mind that I can do anything I try."
For many young people, though, the main selling point for the sport is the intensity of the meets.
"I always tell them, if you come out, don't judge it until you go to your first competition," Smith said. "Because practice is a grind, but there's nothing like being in the competition. It's a different feeling."
That's a fact Still knows all too well, after winning his latest national title in dramatic fashion.
"It came down to his third (and final) deadlift attempt," recounted Smith. "We had to put on his bar a 27 lb personal record, for a total of 573 lbs. Basically if he pulls that deadlift, he wins the national title. And he went out and absolutely smoked the lift. He crushed it. It was a pretty emotional moment for him, his family and myself."
Now Still has just one goal left.
He wants to add his name to the wall of school records in the weight room. The record for the 275 lb weight class is 1600 points.
"I'm chasing the big 1600 on the board," Still said. "I've wanted that for four years. My best total is 1560."
Only 40 points to go. And only one more opportunity for the senior to reach his goal.
The final meet of the year is the Pennsylvania High School State Championship on April 21st.