Breaking records and lifting stereotypes

It’s not just the boys breaking records in Strength and Conditioning


Lindsey Unnerstall

Strength and Conditioning teacher Kyle Whitcher helps a student with his technique. On the wall behind him are the weight lifting records for the school.

Junior Annalise Dorr can deadlift 325 pounds. 

Does that sound impressive? Dorr and other girls at South High are breaking all kinds of weightlifting records in PE Coach Kyle Whitcher’s Strength and Conditioning class.

Dorr, junior Janiah Jones and senior Taliyah Tolen have each taken a turn setting a new weightlifting record this school year. Dorr and Tolen both set new school records for deadlift–Tolen made the wall at the beginning of the school year with 235 pounds and Dorr followed in the beginning of 2nd semester with 325 pounds. Jones set a new record for back squat mid-school year with 215 pounds.

Coach Whitcher said he has been weightlifting since he was in 6th grade. He played college football at Truman State where he did his first teaching internship in 2010. This is his first year teaching at Parkway South. Before teaching, he was a personal trainer at The Lab gym downtown for 10 years.

“[Weight lifting] has been something I’ve been insanely passionate about my entire life,” Whitcher said. “All of my greatest coaches [and] most influential people in my life have been involved with me in the form of weight training.”

Whitcher talked about how he motivates his weight-lifting students.

“I try to keep a light atmosphere and want to keep it fun. [I] want them to be who they can be but expose them to new and crazy things,” he said. 

Whitcher also tracks the progress of his students to motivate them to keep going and show them how far they’ve come. 

“Functional/sports performance, training max speed, max power, all the time,” Whitcher said about his training style. “I think that’s the most important performance indicator.”

Dorr started weightlifting her freshman year. She broke the record for girls deadlift around 3 months ago, lifting 325 pounds.

“The feeling, just being able to finish something after a lift and being able to reach that goal,” Dorr said. “I’ve never felt that feeling before.”

Tolen, who also broke the girls’ record for deadlift back at the beginning of first semester, said she didn’t think she could do it. 

“Actually at the time, I didn’t think I could do it… [Coach Whitcher]  thought that I could beat the record so I just tried to beat it and I did,” Tolen said.  

Jones, who broke the girls’ back squat record mid-school year, is also a wrestler at South High. She said weight training has really helped her on the mat.

“I started around my freshmen year and I noticed it had kind of a big impact on my wrestling,” Jones said. 

When it comes to the record, “I realized I was pretty close… I started off around 175 back squatting… I thought why not go for it, I had people spotting me. I just found [no] reason not trying,” Jones said.

Jones commented on the reasons why she took up weight lifting.

“I genuinely just like the appearance of being muscular, I always thought it was kinda cool and intimidating,” she said.

“I had walked in pretty confident because I had been lifting around that weight. I only needed to add like 15 pounds,” Jones said about the day she claimed her spot on the wall with a 215 back squat. Ever since she broke the record, she has lifted 235 outside of school.

Jones ends with an encouraging message for all.

“I would like to encourage everyone to try weightlifting, even if it sounds like something really big, there’s no harm in it,” she said.