Waterford High School

They’ve got the power

Brooke Ruland, a junior at Waterford High School, set a record in her weight class at the USA Powerlifting High School National Qualifier at Winneconnie High School on March 6. The win punched her ticket for the USA Powerlifting High School Nationals in Aurora, Colorado, Memorial Day weekend.

Waterford high schoolers advance to national power lifting meet

By Christopher Bennett


Brooke Ruland can already say she’s the state’s best at something, and she’s not even done with high school.

Ruland, a junior at Waterford Union High School, is a member of the Wolverines power lifting team, and is a state record holder.

Ruland set a record in her weight class March 6 at a USA Powerlifting High School National Qualifier at Winneconnie High School.

Her record effort means she gets to compete over Memorial Day Weekend in Aurora, Colorado, in the USA Powerlifting High School Nationals.

Ruland will be joined by teammate Brannt Balfanz and her brother, Bryce, both of whom also qualified. Balfanz qualified as part of the team and Bryce is competing independently of the Wolverines.

Ruland did not learn of her record-setting performance until she said she perused the USAPL database the Monday or Tuesday after the meet.

Ruland competes in the 76-kilometer weight class, which equals 167 pounds. Ruland set Wisconsin open raw record in her weight class. Ruland’s three-lift total is the highest of any young women in state powerlifting history for her age.

Ruland lifted 314 pounds in her deadlift, 303 pounds in her squat and another 159 in her bench press for a three-lift total of 777 pounds. The record she broke stood since 2014.

“I like being able to hit new totals,” Ruland said. “My totals are consistently going up. I really love being a part of the team – being there with others and growing and helping them grow, too.”

Ruland is in her second season as a powerlifter and went out for the team to help her with track and field pursuits and at the urging of her father.

Waterford High School junior Brannt Balfanz performs a deadlift at the USA Powerlifting High School National Qualifier at Winneconnie High School on March 6. Balfanz advanced to USA Powerlifting High School Nationals.

Balfanz, a junior, went out for the team at the urging of some friends, some of whom are on the power lifting team.

“I had a lot of friends on the power lifting team, and this is a good way to get involved with an activity,” Balfanz said. “The practices after school and before school and being with your friends and the energy in the weight room – it’s a good time. Everyone is having fun.”

Balfanz competed in the 83-kilogram division, which is 182 pounds. Balfanz lifted total of 981 pounds across his three disciplines – bench, squat and deadlift. His deadlift of 451 pounds is the best among those in his class.

Balfanz is also in his second year of powerlifting. Coach Andrew Cresswell said the success enjoyed by Ruland and Balfanz so soon is surprising, but not completely unexpected.

“They’re in the weight room as much as anyone I know,” Cresswell said. “They work hard at it, and I’m very impressed with how much they’ve done in a short period of time.”

Cresswell is one of the team’s three coaches. Andrea Martens and Amy Hatch also coach the powerlifters.

Cresswell said the mental aspect of powerlifting is as tough to master as the physical demands. The lifters are often setting a new goal of how much weight they can move with each attempt at the bar.

“When you know you’re coming in at or above what you’ve done in the past, the mental challenge of what you’ve been able to push through if the biggest thing the kids have to deal with,” Cresswell said.

Ruland and Balfanz are optimistic, yet realistic, about their chances at the national competition. Creswell said Wisconsin is a strong state for prep powerlifting, which gives each student an immediate edge – the competition faced to advance is tougher that it is for most.

“There are definitely other kids who are stronger than me,” Balfanz said. “I know that going in. My goal is to go in and place respectably. I’ll be lifting against older kids who’ve been lifting longer.”

Creswell said Balfanz is a competitor who can out up some good numbers when he must. Ruland, though, might be Waterford’s best chance at a medal.

“I think placing is definitely a possibility, based on the numbers she’s putting up and with us being one of the more competitive states,” Cresswell said. “She’s at the top of Wisconsin – I think she definitely has a chance to place.”

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