|Heather Calandra receiving first place medal Photo courtesy of Calandra family|
|Heather Calandra being spotted by coach Mike DiQuattro|
Photo courtesy of Calandra family
Mingus junior Heather Calandra has already established herself as one of the premier throwers in Arizona ranked the No. 7 shot put thrower, and after this past weekend has established herself as one of the best power lifters in not only high school, but also the entire Natural Athlete Strength Association.
"My main goals were to win, do my best in every lift," Heather said.
Heather traveled to Oklahoma with her throwing and lifting coach Mike DiQuattro to the high school nationals from April 6-7.
The junior had as good of a tournament as she could without claiming the top prize. Heather came 1/10,000 of a point from first place, but set new personal records in all of her lifts, nine Arizona records and blew away a national record by more than 40 pounds.
"I wanted her to PR in everything," DiQuattro said. "Being that she's in track, she hasn't been able to concentrate on the lifting as much as some of the other teams, that's the only sport they do."
Heather participated in the unequipped lifts, meaning that she did not have any support equipment like vests or suits, which allow lifters to lift more weight and gives the athletes more support during the competition.
Participating in three different categories and eight lifts, Heather lifted her way to four first-place nods and four second-place finishes.
"I was pretty proud of myself. I could have lifted a little better in a couple of my events, but other than that, I was pretty happy," Heather said.
Calandra's first place finishes were in the strict curl (88.18 pounds), power clean (187.39), bench press (169.39) and the power press. The power press total is the power clean and bench press lifts combined, giving Heather a total of 356.78 pounds.
The power-press was also the lift set that she set the new national record in. The previous record was set in 2012 with a total weight of 314.16 pounds, which Heather destroyed by 42.62 pounds, 65 pounds ahead of second place in the power press.
"I knew while I was lifting that I was going to set the record," the junior thrower said. "I knew my two combined lifts were a lot higher than what they were before ... I think its pretty good. Ill try to keep breaking it and making it unreachable to anybody."
Heather's second place finishes were in the squat (269.55), deadlift (319.67), power sports (567.68), which combines strict curl, bench press and deadlift, and her unequipped powerlifting total of 749.56 pounds.
One difficulty Heather and DiQuattro faced while preparing for the trip to Oklahoma was funding it. Mingus does not have a competitive weight lifting team, so the school was not able to pay for the expenses. Despite this, Heather and her team did fundraisers and with the support of the community, including Tim McKeever and his Rec-N-Crew, Rice Accounting and other individuals, were able to raise enough money to go to nationals.
"We had some local people that came, helped and made it possible. First of all, Tim McKeever and the Rec-N-Crew, he purchased all of Heather's lifting equipment for the meet ... They also contributed another 100 dollars towards our [trip]," DiQuattro said. "We had some fundraisers that we helped the kids to do, Rice Accounting was another person that contributed and some private individuals that came and donated some stuff for a yard sale we had for another fundraiser. We did a carwash, it actually came together because of the community ... they helped quite a bit. That's where we got most of the money."
With all of the time, work and effort the junior put in to make this trip happen, DiQuattro has seen how she influences her peers.
"I think she is [an inspiration to other students]. There are a few other kids that wanted to come out but they just weren't as dedicated," DiQuattro said. "It does take that commitment and time. They train all summer long and all [participate in] year-round sports, you just can't get away from it. She wants to get into a school like Stanford or something and that's what it's going to take."
Now that Heather has moved to just within reach of the top of the high school power lifting ranks, her focus will now move to reaching the top of the Division-III throwers. Currently, the Marauder sits in second place in the shot put, 1' 0.5" behind first with a distance of 40' 3", and is tied for fifth in the discus with a distance of 102' 7", nine-feet short of first.
"Heather came through and PRed in each of those lifts," DiQuattro said. "She's very competitive in a big meet, that's what I like, because in track and field it's going to be the same way, she's going to have to compete on the national level."