Sarah Cruz-Ortiz is is 5’1″ and 105 pounds, but don’t let that fool you. She’s the president-elect of Penn State’s powerlifting team, and one of its most adept “lifters.”
“Anyone can do this sport,” said Cruz-Ortiz. “Every body type, every weight—it doesn’t matter.”
The word powerlifting often brings to mind images of bulky, well-oiled men and shaved chests, but Penn State is working to break down those barriers.
The team has roughly thirty competitive lifters, of which eleven are female, and these ladies are some of the best. During their recent trip to Nationals in Orlando, Fl, the women’s team came in sixth place despite two injuries. Cruz-Ortiz placed third overall in her weight class.
Members of the team after Nationals, Courtesy of Sarah Cruz-Ortiz
“Our coach is very aware that in order to grow the sport we need to have it accessible for all genders,” Cruz-Ortiz said.
Cruz-Ortiz decided to try the sport after getting turned down for the Blue Band’s drumline because they thought she was too small to carry the drum. She hoped that powerlifting would help her gain the strength needed to be on the band the next year.
“I initially started powerlifting to get stronger for drumline, but I fell in love with it so quickly that I decided it was going to be my sport,” Cruz-Ortiz said.
Despite her small size, she has an equal chance against her powerlifting competitors because they are separated into weight classes. According to Cruz-Ortiz, this is one of the only sports where she hasn’t been discriminated against for her size.
Cruz-Ortiz during a competition, Courtesy of Sarah Cruz-Ortiz
“I was a rugby player and on the drumline in high school, which are very male-dominated, I always found that my size and my gender were the things that held me back,” Cruz-Ortiz said. “In powerlifting, I find that I’m now being recognized for those things.”
Cruz-Ortiz said of the few discrimination issues she faces, most result from her pint-sized appearance.
“I’ve found that as a team leader, because of my size and gender, people don’t take me as seriously as they should,” Cruz-Ortiz said. “I’ve generally been able to smooth those situations out well.”
The powerlifting team hopes to continue growing the team, in order to better compete against some of the other universities currently dominating the sport, which includes adding both male and female members.
“We want to be a dominating force next year, and we have the potential to be,” Cruz-Ortiz said.