"Go Heavy or Go Home" is the goal as Lingleville High School coach James Boyle and his Iron Cardinals head to a state competition in Waco today.
Three of his 14-member powerlifting team are the only ones to make it this far. All are girls: freshman Leslie Juarez, 15; junior Ana Maldonado, 17; and senior Aubrey Kellar, 17.
"We just worked so hard. We all three wanted it, and we get to show what we're made of," Kellar says.
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Kellar has shown what she's made of for the past two years following a car wreck that injured her and two friends.
"I blacked out during the wreck and don't remember anything until I woke up in ICU thinking this was a dream. It didn't really happen," Kellar says. "I broke both arms, then got skin grafts. They're not really sure what happened, but the motor came through the vehicle and they think I laid against the motor."
Kellar was 15, yet instinctively knew recovering from the wreck on April 1, 2017, would test her like never before.
"There were many points where I felt overwhelmed. I felt like I wanted to throw in the shoe and give up," she said.
She credits people and prayers for holding her up on the long road to recovery.
"My little brother, he was a big pusher," she says with a smile. "He helped through recovery, whether it was feeding me, getting me water, making sure I took medicine on time; having the push from other people got me through my rough days."
Eventually, Kellar and her two friends who were also hurt in the wreck got back to high school life. And, Kellar found herself in the weight room with a coach who came with an offer she had to take.
"He told us, weights is how you're gonna get back," Kellar recalled.
"I told her this is gonna be hard," said Boyle. "We totally rebuilt Aubrey's muscle development."
And along the way, Kellar's confidence was rebuilt, too.
"We went to that first meet, and that's where I got that first medal, and I was like ‘Yeah, I'm doing it!," she said.
At the regionals of the Texas High School Powerlifting Association two weeks ago, Kellar benched 165 pounds, deadlifted 260 and another 260 on squats. The total weight of 655 pounds made her one of the strongest young woman in Texas. She'll try for heavier at the state championship today.
Powerlifting gave Kellar the place to strengthen not just her body, but her mind, too.
"It's kinda my place to get away from everything going on. School work gets stressful and just life in general," she said. "And the weight room is an escape from it."
While weights without doubt make Kellar stronger, it's what's in her heart that shapes her and what she shares with others.
"There's power in determination and prayer and trying your hardest. That's what I want to give to people. Don't give up," is her message to anyone going through a tough time.