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  • Tom Sandford

Strength in Numbers: Cornell Barbell Club Takes on the Ivy League

Powerlifting is often thought of as an individual sport. People like to say, “It’s just you and the weights,” but that’s not entirely true. Granted, nobody can lift the weight for you, but if you’re competing in an official competition you most likely didn’t load the bar yourself. You have two to five people standing by in case you fail, and you might even have some supporters in the audience. Therefore, you are never alone in competition.

The members of the Cornell Barbell Club are lucky because we have more than that. We don’t just have a few friends in the audience or family members watching the livestream. What we have is a team, and this team—forged across schools, majors, and ages, brought together by a shared love of the iron—is now the third strongest in the Ivy League.

First things first: What is powerlifting? The sport of powerlifting is one that goes back to the 1960s and involves three main lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. Every single powerlifting meet operates the same way: you have three attempts to lift the most amount of weight possible on a barbell with proper form before moving on to the next exercise. The first event is the squat, where lifters select a certain weight, which they put on their back, sit down, and stand up. Next is the bench press. Lifters will lie down on a bench, take the bar in their hands, bring it down to their chest, and press it back up until their arms are fully extended. Lastly, we have the deadlift. In this event, the weight starts on the ground, and the athletes simply must pick it up.

Lifters are broken up by gender and weight class, much like wrestling or boxing. Not only do people compete for the team award, but if they total high enough, they could qualify for Collegiate Nationals (which is only for college students) or Raw Nationals (which is for anyone who is strong enough to qualify). Although this tournament included different divisions for gender and weight class, there were no individual trophies given out, only one big trophy for the team that won overall.

In order to understand the significance of Cornell’s third place finish at Ivies on November 6, 2022, we have to discuss the history of the club. Founded back in 2009, the Cornell Barbell Club started off strong and successful, but that came to a stop in 2018. For about three years, the club remained dormant. When I joined my freshman year in February 2020, the club was dead. In trying to revive it, I embarked on the journey to archive every competition that all of our past members had done, whether it be bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman, or olympic weightlifting. It was during this research period that I discovered that Cornell had won the Ivy League Championships in powerlifting back in 2017. I knew that this was the ultimate project to unite the club again. I wanted to bring back Ivies.

So, I emailed the organizer of the event, assembled the other powerlifting club captains and presidents of Dartmouth, Princeton, and Columbia. I tried to get this set up, and I failed. Ivies didn’t happen last fall, the other presidents graduated, and the club wasn't doing a whole lot on campus besides making t-shirts on CustomInk. However, I saw an opportunity and took it. Jan Daurio, the New York State representative for United States Powerlifting, put a request out on his Instagram page, asking if someone would be able to commentate at his upcoming meet. I knew this was my chance to not only make the connection with him, but to convince him that there was interest from the Ivy League.

My plan worked. Our quick conversation that day in May turned into months of planning and organizing logo designs, venues, volunteers, and any other idea that the two of us, along with the other Ivy League captains, could generate. On Sunday, November 6, 2022, all of the planning, deliberation, headaches, and frantic midnight text conversations came to fruition. The meet happened, and it was worth every second.

The most important job for our team was getting the meet together. None of this would have happened if it were not for the incredible executive board of the Cornell Barbell Club. Our treasurers, Veronica Gluza MS ‘23 and Callie Burns ‘25, spent much of this semester ensuring that our budget requests were up to code so that we could actually afford to go to the meet. Graduate liaison Derin Ozturk ‘26 made sure that we had training from someone with experience competing at a national level. Our vice president, Eliza Ryan ‘24, spent the entirety of the meet, a staggering 12 hours, loading the plates on the bar and spotting people in case they failed. Lastly, our communications director, Annie Podedworny ‘22, was the glue that held everything together. She was in charge of making sure that everyone who wanted to compete received emails with all the necessary details, led our informational presentations, helped coordinate travel and volunteers, and spent the week before the meet reviewing everyone’s training footage and choosing numbers that would allow everyone to lift to their full potential.

Overall, we had the largest turnout of any team there, with 10 men and 7 women competing, 2 people loading and spotting, and 5 people acting as handlers. Three of our athletes set state records and qualified for Collegiate Nationals. Jacqueline Arnold ‘24 set the Virginia state record in the deadlift with a 187.5kg/413 lbs pull in the 75 kg/165 lbs weight class. The total amount she lifted qualified her for USAPL (United States of America Powerlifting) Collegiate Nationals in the spring and the USAPL Raw Nationals in the summer. Fellow sophomore Burns set the New York State bench press record at 72.5kg/160lbs in the 60kg/132 lbs weight class. She also qualified for Collegiate Nationals in the spring. For her total in the 67.5kg class, Margaret Kops Kuveke ‘23 also qualified.

In the 52kg/123lbs class, Hailey Jinkins ‘25 placed third. Burns placed third in the 60kg/132lbs weight class while Margaret Kops Kuveke ‘23 placed third in the 67.5kg/148lbs class. Arnold won the 75kg/165lbs weight class, and Daniel Khan ‘24 placed second in the men’s 75kg/165lbs weight class. I was our final podium finisher, earning a third place total in the men’s 100kg/220lbs weight class. (Check out our complete team results here.)

As President of Cornell Barbell Club, I couldn’t be prouder. I am proud of what this team was able to accomplish as a whole, what our lifters were able to accomplish individually, and I am excited for the future. Cornell Barbell Club is back. See you in Teagle.


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