SEDALIA — Demetrius Davis positions his back on the bench and closes his hands around the bar. His spotter lifts the weight from the rack and centers it over Davis’ shoulders. The crowd gasps as he goes through the motions of bench-pressing 450 pounds: lower, press, pause, rack.
Davis, 27, was one of nearly 35 bench-press competitors at the Missouri State Fair on Sunday. He began weightlifting in high school in Huntsville. Now a resident of Columbia, Davis has been competing in power-lifting events for three years.
“I don’t care if you are 100 years old or 4 years old: If you can lift four pounds or 400 pounds, you can enjoy these competitions,” said Scott Jones, another competitor.
Jones, a psychiatrist who opened with 265 pounds in Sunday’s competition, lives in Great Summit, where he trains for events at home with his sons. He said one of his motivations for competing is to encourage his two children to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
“I want to do by example, even if I embarrass myself sometimes. And it has worked,” Jones said. “My goal is 300, but if I get 290 pounds today, I’ll be tickled.”
Jones said his 13-year old son, who bench-presses 120 pounds with a body weight of 104 pounds, holds a state and national record for his division within the Son Light Power organization.
Darrell Latch and the Son Light Power organization manage the state fair contest. Latch said that the group has been running the event for six years and that Son Light Power is the third-largest lifting organization in the country. Its goal is to create a fun environment while teaching correct form to younger lifters and encouraging active lifestyles.
Lisa Hedrick of Brookfield, one of two women in the competition Sunday, set a personal best when she bench-pressed 170 pounds. She said she manages to train four days a week while raising three children. Her preparation for competition involved a six-week cycle of lighter weights and more repetitions followed by four weeks of heavier weights and fewer repetitions.
Lifters are divided into coed groups by age and weight; teenage, ages 13-19; junior, ages 19-23; submaster, ages 35-39; and master, for competitors 40 and older. These age groups are then divided into weight classes ranging from 97 pounds to super-heavyweight. Sunday’s competition was divided into two larger flights: one for those whose opening bench-press attempt was less than 300 pounds, the other for those who opened with more than 300 pounds.