PROGRESS 2024 - Sports & Recreation

‘Strength has a greater purpose’

Guidance, community await those willing to give powerlifting a shot

By Amanda Manchester, Herald Reporter
Posted 4/24/24

EVANSTON — “What I love about powerlifting is that anyone can do it; it doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall or a well-rounded athlete or brand new to exercise. …

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PROGRESS 2024 - Sports & Recreation

‘Strength has a greater purpose’

Guidance, community await those willing to give powerlifting a shot


EVANSTON — “What I love about powerlifting is that anyone can do it; it doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall or a well-rounded athlete or brand new to exercise. There’s a place for everyone in the sport,” said 307 Strength Youth Barbell Club founder and head coach Maggie Jones.

Jones had been interested in powerlifting since high school, but life took her in different fitness directions initially, including certifications in Pilates and cycling. While training for a triathlon in 2017, an injury forced Jones to switch gears.

In addition to earning several varying movement certifications, she became a StrongFirst kettlebell instructor in 2018, then a USA weightlifting coach. Eventually, Jones became a National Level USA Powerlifting (USAPL) coach in 2020.

She also hosts and referees meets, both locally and nationally. She is insured through the USAPL and certified in SafeSport. Jones is also working on her bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

In early 2022, Jones became inspired to create a youth powerlifting club after watching kids participate in the USAPL Wyoming State Championship. By June of that year, she made her vision reality.

“I wanted to offer a safe space for kids to develop their confidence and physical abilities and to help those already engaged in a sport to become better athletes,” she explained. “Powerlifting has been a sport that has taught me self-compassion and forgiveness when I fail, resilience and overcoming difficult things, it’s improved the way I speak to and about myself, it relieves anxiety, and it increases the connection between myself and others.”

Since its inception within the confines of limited floor space at Jones’ gym Flex Fitness two years ago, to her barbell and kettlebell studio space next door at Davis Chiropractic, club membership has grown from six to 25 members.

“It ebbs and flows with their participation in other sports,” Jones told the Herald. “Most of the kids in our club are boys ages 8-14 and one third of them are girls ages 10-15.  I would definitely like to see more women get involved in the sport.”

Former cross-country runner, 15-year-old Charlize Tippetts has been with the club for just over a month and is signed up to compete in her first meet at United Ladies of Iron in Evanston on May 4.

“I had a knee injury, and I wasn’t very good at running anyway, so I really like lifting. I’ll probably stick with it,” Tippetts said. “I really like the people here. The vibe — it’s very chill. I don’t see that in a lot of other sports that are very competitive.”

Nine-year-old Blare Albrecht is also new to the club.

“I’ve only been here three times,” Albrect said. “I started off light; now I can do a 77-pound deadlift! I feel inspired!”

“We keep our lifter to coach ratio 3:1 so it allows us to keep a good eye on their form and provide one-on-one attention,” Jones said.

Coaches Ashleigh Clyne and Nate Gilmore have each been powerlifting for two years. Clyne has been with the club for nearly a year; Gilmore since January.

“It’s been quite the learning experience,” Gilmore said. “Some days are a struggle, and there is something new every day. Kids always have something new to say, it’s fun, but patience is required.”

Clyne said, “I’ve had to learn how to communicate and solve problems in different ways. I like to watch them push through hard things. They make my life an adventure.”

Jones said it’s great working with youth.

“The kids are full of energy and willing to try new things,” she said. “They are very honest and don’t overthink things. While this is an individual sport, it’s great to see them cheer for and encourage each other and be compassionate humans,” as she recalled a tender moment she witnessed.

A newer boy was struggling with back squats. He missed a lift, and it scared him. However, instead of the other kids making fun of him, they comforted him by sharing stories of their similar failures.

“They told him that when a lift doesn’t go as planned, it was going to be OK,” Jones said. “He was encouraged by this and continues to lift with us. Strength has a greater purpose.”

Zander Heiner, 12, has been with the club for a year and just competed in his first meet, Heavy Liftmas, last December.

“I would love to do more [meets],” Heiner said. “Lifting gives me confidence, and it makes me feel good and strong — and I enjoy the people. My goal is to bench 100 pounds. My favorite lift is deadlift, and my goal is 250 pounds.”

“It’s fun and gets me buffed!” said 8-year-old Hayes Garfield, who is trying to keep up with his two older brothers, Kole and Lex, also members of the club.

In addition to powerlifting, Jones recently added Strongman activities to the training sessions.

“The kids love it!” she said. “Strongman is a sport in which strength is tested in unconventional ways, so it has allowed our kids to test their limits functionally. There aren’t many opportunities for under 14-year-olds to participate in this sport but it’s a great addition to our mix, giving them skills for everyday life.”

Lincoln Kendrick, 11, told the Herald, “It’s very nice to improve physical and mental capabilities. I really like the Strongman days!”

“If I can’t lift a weight, I’ll try it again. If I can do it, then I’ll add more weight,” said 11-year-old Tharon Bowns.

Jaxxon Williams, 8, added, “If I can do 80 or 82 pounds (deadlift], I’ll be close to my goal of 100 pounds.”

Kole Garfield, 14, is one of the founding members of the club and has competed in three meets so far. He’s planning on going to USAPL Nationals in Salt Lake City in September if he qualifies, which he’ll try to accomplish at a meet in Denver in June. He’s currently training five days a week, including three days at the club. Jones provides him private programming two extra days a week.

“It was my mom’s idea [to join],” Garfield said. “Then I got more into it; now it’s a passion. It makes me feel good.”

Garfield said his favorite thing about powerlifting is the other competitors.

“They’re just so nice and supportive,” he said. “Powerlifting in general is awesome. I like that it’s an individual sport, but I wish I had more competition in my age and weight class.”


Camila Little said, “I get really nervous when I compete, like butterflies in my stomach. But if I crush a goal, it makes me happy, like ‘I did it!’”

Little will also be competing in next month’s Ladies of Iron, her fourth meet.

Ki Morris, 12, has been with the club for a year.

“My favorite lift is bench press because you get to lay down,” he said. “I do like Strongman stuff, because it’s like different rounds, like vertical jumping as high as we can, then halos with kettlebells.”

When asked if he has any plans to sign up for a meet, Morris said he isn’t sure yet. Though encouraged, there is no pressure on club members to sign up for competitions. 

Nine-year-old Samuel Manchester said he enjoys the competitions.

“Those are pretty fun,” he said. “I like lifting in front of a whole bunch of people.”

The club is open to high schoolers and Jones has aspirations of someday working with Evanston High School to start a USA Powerlifting team.

“In early April, USAPL had High School Nationals and 11 teens from Casper participated,” Jones said. “It would be so cool to have an EHS team. Hopefully this summer, we can put on a powerlifting meet for them so they can see what it’s like and get them excited about qualifying for Nationals.” 

Classes are broken into different age groups, with offerings three days a week.

• All ages on Monday mornings from 7 a.m. to 7:50 a.m.

• Tuesday and Thursday, ages 8-12 from 4:15 p.m. - 5:20 p.m.; ages 13-17 from 5:30 p.m.- 6:45 p.m.

Club membership costs $25/month for one class a week, or $45/month for twice a week. There is a $5 discount for additional siblings.

Jones and her coaches will host a ten-week summer camp, which is recommended for new kids. It’s 75-minute sessions twice a week. Times and dates are to be determined; registration opens May 1st. The cost is $125.

“We are all SafeSport trained. We end the summer camp with a mock meet where the kids get to showcase what they have learned and to get a feel for what it’s like to compete in powerlifting,” Jones said. “We are hoping to fit in a Strongman showcase day, as well.”

The studio can be found at: 108 Yellow Creek Rd. in Evanston in a shared building with Davis Chiropractic. 

307 Strength is on Facebook and Instagram and Jones can be reached at (307) 298-0019.