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Upper Cumberland Powerlifters Achieve Six Top Five Finishes at Big Iron Challenge

Katie Thomas completes second competition since beginning in May

The Big Iron Challenge was recently held in Maryville, Tennessee, and it takes place a few times each year. The challenge is put on by Chip Hulquist, who runs a program called Power Partners where a Special Olympics athlete is paired with another athlete.

Nina Weston has been coaching for six years and is the head coach of Upper Cumberland Region powerlifting. She was also the head coach for Tennessee at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando and assistant coach for Special Olympics USA at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games Berlin.

Coaching at a high level has given Weston experiences to last a lifetime.

“I was blessed to coach these athletes in a very short time period and always watch them form as a team," said Weston. "We may go in as strangers at this level, but always leave as a team.”

The environment at the powerlifting competitions is one of the best parts of the event.

“The environment is usually very busy, but the athletes always handle this well,” said Weston. “We have a blast at these as you see the athletes' anticipation for the lift and being able to accomplish what they have set out to do. We always have supportive crowds, coaches and parents cheering the athletes on.”

Athlete Katie Thomas

The Upper Cumberland Region athletes train twice a week, year-round. There are 18 active athletes and five certified helpers on the roster.

Athlete Katie Thomas has been powerlifting since May and the Big Iron Challenge was her second competition.

Thomas’s personal record is 106 pounds in deadlift.

To other athletes who want to try powerlifting, Thomas said, “You’ll like it, it’s fun!”

At the latest Big Iron Challenge in Maryville, the Upper Cumberland Region had six top-five places.

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