Roseville Area High School senior and Bethel PSEO student Sierra Sedlacek powerlifts competitively and breaks records while forming relationships and building character.
By Elle Young
Sierra Sedlacek feels exhausted, but keeps her grip on the barbell. If she can bring 341.7 pounds up to thigh level – hips and shoulders locked, knees bent – and maintain control while returning the bar to the floor, she’ll have a new personal record. However, this PR isn’t being attempted in her typical Roseville gym, but at the 2023 USA Powerlifting High School Nationals in South Carolina.
After she brings her hands around the metal bar, Sedlacek starts moving her hips forward. The plates leave the floor as she inches the weights higher, slow and steady, until finally she gets them all the way up. After reaching an upright posture, Sedlacek returns the 341.7 pounds – roughly the same weight as an adult male gorilla – to the ground. She jumps with excitement before running back to hug her coach while her team and the crowd cheer.
“I just remember being so happy for her,” teammate Alejandra Bonilla Hirdman said. “It did make me tear up.”
A math teacher at Roseville Area High School, where Sedlacek is a student, created the Powerlifting Club last school year when Sedlacek was a junior. Months later, she is a PSEO student at Bethel University and holds Minnesota state records in all three lifts — squat, bench press and deadlift – as well as a record in the total weight. From last season to this season, the team has grown from four lifters to more than 30. Sedlacek loves the team dynamic and the adrenaline of competing.
“It’s become the highlight of my days,” Sedlacek said.
Sedlacek played soccer, tennis and hockey as a kid. She played hockey the longest, nine years, but decided to stop playing in favor of CrossFit after ninth grade. However, once she began powerlifting, Sedlacek felt she had found her true passion. The weight room became a place where she could make friends, be herself and have fun.
Through powerlifting, Sedlacek has met many friends including Andrea Nisler, owner of Timberwolf Fitness – the Roseville complex where Sedlacek usually trains. Nisler has competed in the CrossFit Games, an annual athletic competition, eight times and has won twice. Sedlacek admires Nisler’s accomplishments and strength.
“She’s just a very humble human being despite the fact that she’s insane,” Sedlacek jokingly said.
Despite powerlifting being an individual sport, Sedlacek has been inspired by others and loves the team dynamic found between lifters. According to Nisler, Sedlacek is a hard-working team member and is always in a good mood, hyping her teammates up. At meets, competitors are often nervous, stressed and wishing they had chalk for sweaty palms before and between their lifts. However, Nisler recalls Sedlacek laughing and conversing in the corner or sitting in the stands with people between her lifts.
“Sierra’s been a great addition to the gym environment,” Nisler said.
Bonilla Hirdman, a member of the Powerlifting Club, has known Sedlacek for about a year and is also inspired by her, impressed by the ambitious standards that Sedlacek sets for herself and by how committed she is, not just in powerlifting but in her everyday life.
Sedlacek plans to continue at Bethel next year to double major in biokinetics and music. She plans to go to graduate school to become a physical therapist. While there is a professional circuit for powerlifting, it is not an NCAA sport, meaning it cannot be competed in at the collegiate level. Nonetheless, Sedlacek hopes to start a powerlifting club at Bethel.
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