While the list of young men lifting weights in Stephenville is a mile long, the list of those who excel at the regional level in state powerlifting could fit on a Post-it note.
This year's number of Stephenville powerlifters that qualified and will travel to the regional meet can be counted on one hand - seniors, Keith Ray, Ragan Wood and Nathan Martin, sophomore Isaac De La Cruz and freshman Hunter Mayo.
"Whenever you get up to the regional and state meet you are going against top competition and that drives you to push yourself hard in practice and at meets," said Ragan Wood. "I enjoy pushing myself and seeing what my body can do. Getting to this point is something I'm glad to say I've done again."
The journey of a powerlifter is an interesting story. It's one that begins years beforehand with athletic training in middle school or before.
That eventually turns into long workouts in the cold mornings of the weight room where those participating witness each other's progress.
"I know it’s a big encouragement for me to see everyone I know improve," said Keith Ray. "This isn’t a normal sport. We aren’t really competing against one another. It’s you competing against yourself and you're trying to improve your own total. I remember watching others push harder and improving and that made me strive to be a better lifter."
For every workout enthusiast the rush of setting a personal best is something that keeps them coming back for more.
Completing a squat, deadlift or bench press you didn't think you'd be able to get is a rush Isaac De La Cruz craves.
"When I get a lift that I don’t think I originally thought I could, my mind starts racing. It’s excitement at first, but I'm really good about calming down and setting my mind upon what is up next," he said. "I think a lot of people focus on past lifts too long sometimes and I think that can hurt."
One individual who definitely didn't believe he'd still be talking about his powerlifting season is freshman Hunter Mayo.
Mayo entered the final meet of the season needing to make up 65 pounds to qualify and somehow found that over three lifts to book his spot.
"I did not think I’d make regionals. I had to make 65 pounds in my last meet to qualify and I managed to do that on all three lifts," he said. "It was a big surprise, but I’m happy to be going and I hope I have a good performance."
In the end, the reason the lifters continue to participate is more than just who has the biggest total at the end of the day. The camaraderie and brotherhood that's forged in the weight room keeps these driven athletes going.
"Just being able to lift weights and hang out with my friends, coaches and push my limits physically along with helping my teammates improve. That’s what I love about the sport," said Nathan Martin.
With his third regional meet coming up, Keith Ray is hungry to go out big his senior year.
"Personally, my goal is to get to the 1,000-pound club, I’ve always gotten close, but haven’t reached it yet," he said. "I’m determined to get there and I want to place as well. Previously my best is 975 pounds."
The regional powerlifting meet is scheduled for Saturday at Smithville High School.