Competing at the highest level in one’s favorite hobby is a dream that we all share.
However, it’s certainly something that most of us don’t actually get to realize.
To be fair, it takes a great deal of hard work — and work ethic is something that The Ohio State University’s Brooke Conley has plenty of. The 19-year old powerlifting phenom has not only proven herself as one of the best power lifters in the State of Ohio, but across the United States as well.
That’s clearly evident in a ninth-place finish in the 2017 Collegiate National Championships in the 185.2-pound women’s division — in what was an outstanding showing from the Wheelersburg standout — by collecting an overall score of 306.11 points behind her maxes of 281.1 pounds in the squat, 143.3 pounds in the bench press, and 319.7 pounds in the dead lift to qualify for world competition in South Africa in July.
For Conley, just being able to represent the Scarlet and Gray in national — and possibly international — competition meant the world to the freshman.
“It is such an amazing feeling,” Conley said. “When I first moved to Columbus, I was lifting alone. Then, I found my team (after being noticed) and we are truly like family. Everyone is so encouraging. There is honestly no better feeling than lifting with some of your best friends and knowing that we are representing one of the best schools in the country. It is truly an honor.”
What makes this success story all the more incredible was the fact that Conley wasn’t even pursuing a college career in the sport — until Ohio State University head coach John Downing noticed the Wheelersburg native working out one day in a university gymnasium.
“I was about to squat in one of the gyms on campus and my coach noticed my belt and knee sleeves and approached me asking about lifting and joining the team,” Conley said. “I was more than thrilled.”
That enthusiasm immediately translated to the meets that the freshman participated in, as the Ohio State standout notched runner-up finishes in the 185.2 pound bracket during the No Frills Red Hawke Open in Miami back in December of last year, and the Beyond Limits Classic, which was held in February. In both of those meets, Conley exceeded 230 pounds in the squat, 130 pounds on the bench, and 280 pounds in the dead lift en route to her runner-up showings.
However, those meets proved to only be the beginning of what was to come.
At the Collegiate National Championships, which were held in San Antonio, Texas, Conley immediately set a strong standard by obtaining a 264.6 pound mark on her second try and — on her final attempt — a 281.1 pound standard. Then, after putting together a tidy 143.3-pound mark on the bench press, Conley proceeded to set her personal best in the dead lift with an outstanding mark of 319.7 on the dead lift in her final attempt.
With her overall marks in the books, Conley collected a ninth-place finish in her weight class by lifting a total of 744.1 pounds, and as a result, was one of 15 Ohio State powerlifting athletes to finish in the top 10 in a weight class — allowing both of the Buckeyes’ men’s and women’s units to advance to the collegiate worlds behind a pair of runner-up finishes.
“It was such an amazing experience to be competing with my very best friends against some of the best collegiate lifters in the United States,” Conley said. “The second-place finish allowed us to obtain the opportunity to travel to South Africa for collegiate worlds and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.”
However, that’s where problems arise. Since the Ohio State powerlifting program is an intramural sport — one that is not sponsored by the university’s athletic department — the student-athletes within the program have to find outside funding in order to pursue their own dreams. Conley has received generous help from Forever Posh Boutique, who, on June 29, will donate 20 percent of the profit from each customer purchase to the freshman standout as long as the customer mentions her name, and has also started her own GoFundMe page, but still needs help to completely fund her trip overseas.
Still, simply being the only freshman to qualify for the collegiate worlds, months after being accepted into a prestigious university, is plenty enough to be proud of.
“Being accepted into one of the best colleges in the nation, and being the only freshman to make it to worlds,” Conley said. “When I first joined the team I made it my goal to make it to worlds by my senior year. To be going to worlds just after finishing my freshman year is truly an accomplishment.”
And those goals are ones that couldn’t have been accomplished without an army of Pirates supporting her dreams.
“Having been born and raised in Wheelersburg, I will always have a special place for it in my heart,” Conley said. “The support I receive from not only my family members, but the members of my community, brings great joy to my heart. Being able to represent Wheelersburg High School throughout my years was amazing and now I get to represent not only the school but the entire community as I move through my collegiate year traveling the world doing what I love.”
To help donate to Conley’s cause, visit https://www.gofundme.com/osu-powerlifting-worlds-trip to provide the Scioto County standout with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7