While the Class of 2010 for Calallen High School took to the stage two weeks ago to celebrate their graduation, senior Shelby O'Brien found herself under a different spotlight - a national one, to be exact.
Shelby, a four-year lifter with the CHS power lifting team, competed in Cleveland from May 22-23 at the USAPL Women's Nationals to vie for a spot in international competition. After advancing through local, state and regional meets to qualify for the national event, Shelby said the experience surpassed anything she had imagined.
"It was incredible and totally different than what I expected," she said. "You're up on a stage all by yourself, and there's lights and everybody's looking at you. It was just nice to be able to lift around all those world champions and world record holders.
"I guess I was just in shock."
Shelby said at the event, she ran into a 71-year-old woman who still trained in power lifting. The dedication, she said, was inspiring.
"I started my freshman year and don't plan on stopping anytime soon," she said.
Shelby said she was recruited to join the power lifting team during her first year in high school and, despite being unsure she had what it would take to compete, made the varsity power lifting team that same year.
"I like the adrenaline rush and getting to meet new people," she said. "Our boys this year and three returning varsity girls, we're all like a family. After meets, during meets, we're always in our huddle. You have to be close to each other to be in this sport because you need each other's help all the time."
It was all of that support, she said, that she remembered most while competing on the national stage. While it did not end with a first-place medal, the result was still exciting, Shelby said.
"It's pretty awesome to be the second-strongest in our nation," she said. "I wasn't expecting to get first because the girl I was competing against was a lot stronger than I was going in, but I was working to catch up. But the more I realized that I couldn't, I began to think, 'You know, second's pretty freaking awesome.'"
Still, the determination is there to make next year's competition, should she make it back to nationals, end with a better result.
"I think if I keep working hard…I can make it to world's next year," Shelby said. "I'm determined to go to world (competition), like a straight shot."
In support of Shelby's accomplishment and dedication to her sport, Calallen High School held a special graduation ceremony for Shelby on May 27 in the school's auditorium. Superintendent Arturo Almendarez and other administration were on hand to present Shelby and her family with her diploma.
Shelby said reaching the end of the journey that is high school feels bittersweet, since it means leaving behind friends and coaches, but she will have fond memories to look back on.
"While I was here, it was a great experience," she said. "I wouldn't take anything back, like, ever."
Members of the CHS boys' power lifting team will be competing at the USAPL Nationals in Palm Springs, Calif. from June 18-20.