For the first time in five years, Del Rio is sending a trio of girls to the regional powerlifting meet.

Seniors Dulceamor Guajardo and Litzylaisha Sanchez and junior Mia Ortiz each hit the qualifying weight and will compete at the Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association Region V, Division I 5A/6A Meet March 6-7 at PSJA Southwest’s ECHS Gymnasium.

Guajardo is currently ranked seventh in the region and automatically qualified for the meet as one of the top 12 overall. Ortiz qualified through her total weight lifted at the Uvalde meet while Sanchez qualified this past weekend at the Holy Cross meet.

It’s the first trip to the regional meet for all three girls.

For Sanchez, a two-year member of the team, she knew she was close to qualifying and knew she had it in her to reach her target weight.

“It was exciting. I knew what I needed, so I pushed myself enough to get the weight I needed. This was my last year competing, so I didn’t want that to be my last meet,” Sanchez said. Sanchez competes in the 181-pound weight class.

She got plenty of support from her teammates as well.

“We encouraged her along the way. We kept hollering at her, ‘Come on, Litzy!’” Guajardo said.

Sanchez hit her qualifying weight on her bench press. As soon as she marked, she said she was overcome with emotion and began crying. She then ran into the bleachers and sought out her mom and the two hugged, sharing the experience together.

Though a junior, Ortiz said her senior qualifiers were pushing her to qualify as well.

“They kept saying, ‘We have to go together,’” Ortiz, another two-year member of the program said. Ortiz competes in the 165-pound weight class.

Guajardo is no stranger to regional competition, but not in powerlifting. She qualified for the Class 6A, Region IV track and field meet in the shot put last year as a junior and could achieve that mark again this year. She also excels in the discus, and could qualify for regionals in that event as well, but powerlifting was never her thing prior to this year.

“I was against powerlifting. I love to be in the weight room, but I thought it was dangerous and dumb,” Guajardo admitted, laughing as she spoke. “I went to the first meet as a manager.”

“She stood there with this look on her face,” powerlifting coach David Gomez said. “She would point at different girls and say, ‘I’m stronger than her. I’m stronger than her. I’m definitely stronger than her.’”

“I came back and told Coach Gomez I wanted to be on the team and he said I was the manager and had me input numbers,” Guajardo said. “I was ready, but my mom was still against it. I had to convince her, and it took a while, but Coach Gomez never gave up on me.”

At her first meet at Somerset, a very competitive meet historically, Guajardo finished second overall in the 259-pound weight class.

“I was really nervous. I was more scared than anything else. I felt like I needed more time to warm up but the girls and coaches said I was ready, so I did it,” Guajardo said.

With two weeks until they’ll lift again competitively, the trio knows there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done.

“They come in and lift in the morning. It gets them going but it wears them out. They’re going to get fatigued, but we are working to push their muscles to the next level,” Gomez said. “They do all the work and we just help them a little, but they do all the lifting. It’s hard for them to believe they’re actually doing it.”

It’s already been a successful year for the girls, but they have their sights set on state. However, no matter the outcome, the girls have earned the respect of their coaches and their teammates.

“This sport connected us together and I know I’ve made new friendships I didn’t expect,” Ortiz said.

Each girl also had some advice for any girl thinking about joining the program next year or returning to try and qualify for regionals themselves.

“Don’t doubt yourself. You’re stronger than you think you are,” Sanchez said.

“There is beauty in strength. It’s not always about how you look, but what’s inside of you. And the weight room can always be your sanctuary,” Guajardo said.

“Just continue on the path you set for yourself and believe you can do it because you really can do it,” Ortiz said. “It’s okay to be stronger than the guys because it’s okay to be strong and be beautiful.”

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