COLUMBIA — Madeline Gresham blended in with the purple shirts around her as she ascended the steps to the stage to bench press at Lange Middle School. Wearing her own purple shirt with rolled up sleeves, she scooted back on the bench to get in position. Her father slid 10-pound weights under her feet so they remained level. Opening with 55 pounds, she was one of the first people on the stage.
Madeline, from Hallsville, trained for about two months before coming to the games with her father, but she might not have been able to compete due to one detail.
Madeline is 11 years old. Even with her birthday coming up, she would still be too young to participate in the games. The minimum starting age and weight ranges for powerlifting are 14 to 16 years old and weighing less than 114.5 pounds, according to the Show-Me State Games rules.
"We had to call the office to make sure it was OK for her to compete," Madeline's father, George Gresham, said. "But they called back and allowed her."
She started powerlifting after her dad competed in last year's games. He started taking Madeline to the gym with him so they could spend some more time together.
"I just started liking" powerlifting, she said. "I really like how many friends that I have made from it."
When she got off the stage, many muscled men came over to congratulate and encourage her between sets.
"Everyone's just willing to talk and share tips," George Gresham said. "There's a great camaraderie between everyone."
There was some trepidation when she began powerlifting, however.
"I was a little nervous when she decided to start," her mother, Angela Gresham, said. "But I wanted her to do what she enjoys doing."
A sixth-grader this fall at Hallsville Middle School, she has a few plans for her new sport. Her goal is to lift her body weight, about 85 pounds.
On Saturday, she almost performed a personal best. The most she had planned to lift was 70 pounds, but she changed it to 75 before her last try.
"It was her decision," George Gresham said. "She went up and told them 70 and came back. She paused and told me she wanted to do 75. I told her to go back and tell the officials then."
She almost did it. When the bar was lowered to her chest, Madeline started to lift the bar before the official gave the command. This disqualified the lift, even though her father said she could have lifted the weight.
"I was just trying to lift as much as I could and do my best," she said. "I hope to continue doing it."
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.