Laura McGuill, 22, a 2009 graduate of Refugio High School, headed to Russia on Wednesday, June 5, to compete with the USA Raw World Team in powerlifting.
McGuill currently attends Texas State University where she is working on a degree in Health Information Management. A senior, she plans on graduating next spring.
While she was at Refugio High School, she was named the 2007 and 2008 Powerlifting MVP, and she won the 2009 Lady Cat Fighting Heart Award.
“I got involved in powerlifting my sophomore year of high school after attending a local powerlifting meet as a spectator,” McGuill said. “Everything about this sport seemed to give me a feeling of inspiration that I have never felt before.”
McGuill credits her coach – William Compton – for her being a better lifter and a better person in life.
“I honestly never knew how strong I was until I gave powerlifting a chance,” she said.
McGuill grew up on her family’s ranch outside of Refugio. She said she worked with her father beginning at the age of 10.
“I knew that I could lift a feed sack to feed the cattle, load hay bales and even drive a steel post, but I never thought all that hard work would help me get to where I am today,” she said.
She was introduced to the USA Powerlifting Federation in 2007 while still in high school.
“I have been lifting with USAPL for seven years now,” she said.
And she amassed some championships during those years.
She won the 2011 and the 2012 USAPL National Championships in the Junior Division, as well as various state and local championships throughout the years.
In her travels to compete in powerlifting, she’s met some special people.
“One of those amazing people is the man who is now my fiancé. We met at a USAPL meet about five years ago, and he was just helping me out since it was the first meet I had ever been to without my coach,” McGuill said.
“He told me he was from San Marcos and lifted at the San Marcos Athletic Club,” she said. “We didn’t keep in touch or anything while I finished high school, but when I moved to San Marcos to attend Texas State, I remembered the gym he told me about, and I got in touch with him to get some training advice, and our friendship grew from that point on.”
McGuill said her fiancé has become a training buddy who “realizes my true potential more than I do.”
She said they plan on a fall 2014 wedding.
But first, she will be off to a world competition in Russia.
“Well, I was definitely apprehensive about the idea of going to Russia when I was first asked to compete on Team USA,” she said.
“I know that there has always been tension between the United States and Russia, but I also feel like the media has been successful at causing this big hype about Russia,” she said.
McGuill said she’s researched the countries’ relations.
“The United States and Russia will probably always have disagreements, but there has been so much progress to strengthen our relations with Russia,” she said. “I am certain that our federation would not send us somewhere that is unsafe. Even in our own country, we see so much crime and violence, more than I have ever seen before, and I don’t live in fear. I believe that we still need to be cautious and aware of our surroundings – just as we would in any other place we’ve never been before.”
McGuill said she views the trip as an adventure and a new journey in life.
“I still have so much of the world to see, and I don’t plan on letting a little fear get in the way of all those amazing adventures that I have yet to explore,” she said.
And that is part of the love she has for powerlifting.
“In my opinion, powerlifting is the ultimate test of an individual’s physical and mental strength,” she said. “Of course, it takes a lot of hard work to be physically strong, but mental strength is even harder to achieve.”
McGuill said being mentally strong is necessary to stay focused during workouts, pushing all doubt and excuses away. She said if she has a rough day at the gym, it’s not the end of the world.
“I love everything that powerlifting has taught me about myself. This sport has made me become a hard-working, goal-driven, independent person,” she said.
“You can never work hard enough in this sport because there is always someone else out there in the world who is working even harder just to be better than you,” she added.
That mental strength has paid off when one considers how much weight McGuill can lift.
“At local meets, my weight class is 132 pounds, and then I drop down to the 125-pound class for national and international meets,” she said.
She said powerlifting has another classification besides weight: age. She is in the 20- to 23-year-old classification as well.
She lifts in the Junior and Open divisions (Open has no age requirement).
“I also lift Raw, which means without supportive suits and knee wraps,” she said.
“In high school, we started out lifting with thick suits for squat, bench and deadlift, which assist the lifter. In the Raw division we are allowed to wear the following: a non-supportive singlet, T-shirt, wrist wraps, knee sleeves (just for protecting the knees), and supportive shoes (I use Olympic lifting shoes for squat and bench and flat converse for deadlift).”
McGuill’s best lifts include the following: squat, 275 pounds; bench press, 145 pounds; and deadlift, 330 pounds.
She currently holds the state and American records for squat, deadlift and total for the Junior 132-pound class. She also has the state squat, bench press, deadlift and total records for the Junior 123-pound class.
Her ability and competitiveness paid off when she qualified at the 2012 August national meet to be on the USA Raw World Team.
“To qualify, a lifter must win first place in his/her weight class and accept the position on the team. I won first place in the Junior 132-pound class last August,” she said.
Sadly, McGuill said Texas State University does not have a powerlifting program. So she trains at a gym in San Marcos.
“I lift at a local gym here in San Marcos called San Marcos Athletic Club. We call it SMAC,” she said.
She said the gym is the oldest in Texas, having started in 1976.
“There are many powerlifters like myself who train at SMAC; we actually have three powerlifters – myself and two men, who are competing on the USA Raw World Team this June.
She said her coach is Bobby Warren, who owns SMAC.
“I am so grateful to have Bobby as a coach; his expertise in weightlifting, nutrition and rehabilitation has been a lifesaver for me throughout the years,” she said.
She also has gratitude for her parents – Tina and Andrew McGuill.
“They have always supported me in everything I do, especially in powerlifting,” she said. “I know that I can never thank them enough for all that they do for me, but I hope to make them proud through my accomplishments.”
She noted that her 15-year-old brother, Anthony, also has a passion for powerlifting and is on the Refugio High School powerlifting team.
And she knows that other young women would love the sport, too.
“First of all, don’t ‘think’ about it, just do it! Many women are a little intimidated by powerlifting; they think that lifting heavy weights will make them bulky like the professional bodybuilders you see in magazines,” McGuill said.
“I can assure you that this will not happen. Don’t let anyone tell you or make you believe that you can’t be successful in powerlifting.”
McGuill said her abilities were doubted numerous times because she is petite.
“You have to be strong enough mentally to push through all the doubts and use that as motivation to get stronger,” she said.
Now, McGuill plans on trying out for the USA World Team again in August, being held in Orlando, Fla. The team would compete next year.
“I hope to be competing on the World Team as much as I can. It is so amazing to travel the world doing what I love,” she said.
“For me, powerlifting isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. I love lifting weights and competing, and I will continue to do so for many years.”