Heart of a champion

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Madison-Plains senior Kennedy Clifton powers her way to a first-place finish in her weight class at the state powerlifting meet held March 17 in Kenton. She is the school’s first female powerlifting state champion.

(Posted March 28, 2018)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

Kennedy Clifton is often asked, “Should you be doing this?”

It started when she took to the diamond as a 4-year-old playing T-ball. It amplified as she roamed the gridiron, snatching opponents’ flags. The question kept coming when she took up softball and volleyball, and it played on repeat as she entered the world of powerlifting.

The concern lies with the fact that Clifton, a 17-year-old senior at Madison-Plains High School, was born with a rare heart condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot. Clifton has endured two open heart surgeries and three other related procedures. While her cardiologist has given her the green light to pursue athletic activities, the “Should you be doing this?” question has always followed her.

Coming from a family of athletes, Clifton knew from a very young age that she wanted to follow in their footsteps. She was determined to not let fear of her condition get in her way.

“I was never given any restrictions,” she said. “They told me I could do whatever I wanted. And I did.”

For most of her life, Clifton has participated in traditional sports but took an interest in powerlifting during junior high. At first, she liked doing it to stay in shape for other sports but eventually fell in love with it.

“It’s surprisingly a lot of fun,” she said.

During her sophomore year at Madison-Plains, Clifton joined the school’s Powerlifting Club where she was one of the few females participating. Shortly thereafter, she became something of a beacon to others.

“She’s just a rock star,” said Michael Siders, physical education teacher and powerlifting instructor and coach.

Siders formed the powerlifting club nine years ago. Initially, few female students signed up. Siders said Clifton has helped to change that.

“She promotes this sport like no other,” he said.

It doesn’t hurt that Clifton has been setting records and adding to the growing legacy of the school’s powerlifting club.

“Can I do this?” is the question Clifton posed to herself when she entered Kenton High School to participate in last year’s Bill McClain Ohio High School State Powerlifting Championship for Divisions V, VI and VII. She had worked hard to increase the amount of weight she could squat, bench and deadlift. But looking around at the 300 other focused athletes, all wanting to win, she doubted whether she would be able to do enough.

“I was really nervous,” she admitted.

But, as always, she was determined to give it her best.

Though Clifton did not win her weight division, she did place third, the highest a female athlete at Madison-Plains had placed at the state level in powerlifting.

Afterwards, she set a goal for this year’s powerlifting championship: to deadlift 300 pounds, which would be a personal best and win her weight class at state.

“Could this really happen?” is the question flying through Clifton’s mind as she prepared to deadlift 300 pounds at the 2018 championships on March 17.

She was the last participant in her 135-pound weight class. All she needed to do was to deadlift what was in front of her and she would be named the state championship.

With encouragement from her teammates and fellow competitors, Clifton managed to deadlift the weight before her. And with her combined efforts in the squat, bench and deadlift events, she became Madison-Plains’ first state champion in girls’ powerlifting.

“I could hardly believe it,” she said.

Siders said he wasn’t as surprised by the results as Clifton was.

“She is just so determined and has a real passion for her team,” he said, noting that Clifton helped the girls’ team place fourth at state.

Siders said Clifton is proof that one can overcome adversity and succeed despite fear, doubt and questions.

“She’s a very inspiring person,” he said.

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