Pound for pound, Eva Saenz is one of the strongest girls in the State of Texas, and she has the title to prove it.
Saenz won the 4A state title in the 97-pound weight class in powerlifting at the Texas High School State Powerlifitng Meet at the American Bank Center March 19.
"She's a very committed person, very determined and very goal-oriented. Last year, qualifying for state made her believe she could possibly be a state champion. Starting on Day One in November, she just took off," Tuloso-Midway High School Powerlifting Coach John Livas said.
'With three attempts per lift, she went through five power lifting meets with only one miss out of 45 attempts. She never really missed an attempt at what she was going for," Livas said.
Saenz would be the first to tell you that wasn't always the case.
"Before, when I would start something, I would give up if it got too tough," Saenz said. A close friend though introduced her to the sport of powerlifting, which was tough in the beginning, but eventually gave Saenz an outlet from anything else going on in life.
"I noticed that at the get-go, I thought to myself, 'I should stick with this.' I wanted to become something better than I was before," Saenz said. "There were a lot of low times, but coach would remind us that everyone has a bad practice, and you have to make the best of it and push through it. Because if you don't, you're not going to progress. I pushed through tough practices to reach my goal, which was to hopefully win state."
And her career has been a direct progression, from eighth place her sophomore year, to fourth place her junior year, to the state title as a senior.
"I was really nervous. It was kind of like the 'Clash of the Titans' between me and this one girl. We had been going back and forth all season, so I was really nervous going in. At a previous meet, I had a bad meet and she had an awesome meet. Her confidence was higher, mine was kind of broken, but I went in there as confident and calm as I could be and it worked out," Saenz said.
Saenz said she feels the sport is much more mental than physical. She said anyone can have the ability, but when a person is stronger mentally, that gives them the edge to push ahead, to lift more weight.
At the state meet, Saenz squatted 270 pounds, bench pressed 125 pounds and dead lifted 280 pounds, for a total of 675 pounds.
"You have to have a strong mental basis to lift what at first you don't think is possible to lift and to finish a lift," Saenz said. "When I'm doing my attempt, I think to not give up. Your body gets to that point when you can physically get stuck, but to get through that I just repeat in my head, 'Don't stop, don't stop, don't stop.' Before I lift, I get myself really pumped up and tell myself to not let me defeat myself and to keep pushing. I'm my harshest critic."
"I think the girls are breaking the old stereotypes. I think really, if you go to any college now…and see what they're doing, everyone is lifting,' Livas said. "Girls are just not intimidated by the weights. There is no limit to what they can do; they are just as strong as the boys."
"A girl who is 97 pounds who can squat 275 pounds, that's amazing. Out of all the regions, we are the strongest region, with the strongest girls in the state of Texas coming from down here," he added.
Saenz said she is more prepared for what life has in store. Walking in three years ago, her coach remarked that Saenz used to keep her head down. Now, three years later, she walks with her head held high.
"I think most of all, it's given me confidence. It's given me friends and a family. It changed my thoughts that a person doesn't have to be ruled by the situation they are in. They can become greater then they are," Saenz said, with tears welling up in her eyes. "I can become more than being a tiny little girl. I can break from anything. It's given me a sense of hope."
"It's taught me there is more than just who you are and what you are. You can become something greater, and you can achieve something more than what you're destined to achieve, or what people think you can achieve," she added.