BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — At 4-foot-11 and 132 pounds, Bethani Duncan bench presses 190 pounds, squats 345 pounds and can deadlift 325 pounds.
So it should be no surprise that the Vidor sophomore holds four world records in the women's teenage 16-17 division, according to the World Powerlifting Congress, the sport's most prominent association.
Powerlifting is a strength-based sport consisting of three events: the bench press, the squat lift and the dead weight lift, in which the competitor picks up a loaded barbell from the ground.
"Yeah, I get comments from people about my arms," Duncan said. "Or people say, 'Oh my gosh, your legs are so big.' I wish I was littler or more petite but when I am up on that platform I am thinking 'my God, I have big legs.'"
Duncan was a cheerleader and a soccer player before she was spotted by powerlifting coach Rodney Burks, who told her she was going to be a powerlifter.
She said being a powerlifter was something she always wanted to do, and she's not alone.
Though most people think about big, burly guys when it comes to power lifters, there are quite a few Southeast Texas girls who competed in the sport, especially on the high school level.
West Brook, for example, has had multiple girls garner high finishes in state powerlifting meets over the last few years. The Bruins also captured the 2007 Natural Athlete Strength Association national championship.
And in Duncan's case, she was one of four local girls to win gold medals at the Texas High School Women's Powerlifting meet in March 2008.
Duncan is also a part of a long line of female powerlifters to compete at Vidor. In 2005, Ashley Watson was ranked No. 1 in the state's Class 4A Texas High School Women's Powerlifting Association poll.
Mike Denmon, who has been coaching Duncan for more than a year, has also trained numerous boys and girls high school powerlifters.
Denmon said that during the high school season, which starts this month, there are about 150 girls who will compete at every meet.
"In the last four or five years, it's really exploded," Denmon said. "Over at West Brook, their coach was telling me they have had 125 girls come out for the team."
Denmon, who was a powerlifter at Bridge City in the 1980s, said the girls lifting today are so strong, they could have beat him back then.
He said what has helped Duncan become successful is a gymnastics background.
Duncan said being in gymnastics made her use every muscle in her body, which she does with powerlifting.
However, this sport is more than who can lift the most weight.
Duncan said being a powerlifter means being on a strict diet she rarely breaks.
"It's oatmeal for breakfast, eating a snack like raisins and then eating a turkey sandwich for lunch," she said. "For supper I'll have half a chicken breast, eat a salad with vinegar dressing, and before I go to bed, I eat four egg whites.
"I've got to a point where I do not crave food, but it does keep me healthy."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.