The Student Voice of Prosper High School

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The Student Voice of Prosper High School

Eagle Nation Online

The Student Voice of Prosper High School

Eagle Nation Online

Column: Senior reflects on moments with girls powerlifting team

Juliana Cruz shares emotions, impact of athletic career and awards
Pulling 315 pounds, senior Juliana Cruz sets a new high school record for the 114 weight class. “I’m grateful for the team I chose to be on and the coaches that invested in me, even through my ‘crybaby’ moments,” Cruz said. “The Lady Eagle Powerlifting team will always be unforgettable.” (Courtesy of Isabelle Oathout)

As I prepare to head off to the University of Oklahoma in the fall, I reflect on my many memorable high school experiences. Powerlifting standing No. 1 on my list.

Finding friends and hobbies I truly enjoy was always difficult for me, so I tended to focus more on my academics. COVID made this harder.

First, my family and I moved from New York to Frisco, Texas.

Now, Prosper.

I was born and raised in New York City. It was my home, now Texas was supposed to be. I had to make this place a home somehow. It was hard to be a teen during the pandemic, trying to be different. I had to rebrand myself, meaning I had to actually leave the house.  Like many, I decided to start going to the gym and lifting weights during this secluded time. Everyday gym trips eventually nested their way into my schedule, and became an important part of my life.

When in-person school started again, I felt lost and alone in the sea of 3,800 students at a school that felt like a university. I applied to join many different classes and clubs. None of them stuck — except for newspaper, a class I thought existed for “nerds” like me. Newspaper became both my team and my family, and showed me a profound love for journalistic writing. But, it wasn’t enough.

One day, I overheard a peer speaking of powerlifting, talking about “squat, bench, and deadlift,” — all the workouts I’ve been scared to do. I figured it was nearly the same thing as going to the gym, so I took my love for working out and went to the 2022 powerlifting meeting led by head coach Brian Thompson. “Practice is after school with workouts under and over the bar,” I joined. I was nervous, but also excited, I’d never had a chance to be on a sports team besides the make-believe recess games I played in New York City, the ones where you either got chosen or sat out on the hot concrete. It’s not hard to guess which category I was in. But, just hearing Coach Thompson say my name immediately made me feel like an athlete.

My knowledge on the accessory workouts I always did at the gym led to Thompson noticing who I was. At first, I put my ego ahead of me, but I stopped myself because I didn’t need to prove I’m already strong. This wasn’t that recess team that left me benched. This was a team where I was a name, not a number. Thompson saw my humility and gave me the opportunity to go to my first powerlifting meet. I bombed out.

Bombing out means I failed all three attempts on a particular lift. In this case, it was bench.

I cried. I isolated. I quit — quit the mentality of giving up and not being the teammate I needed to be.

I was disappointed. It was my first meet, and I felt I failed those around me, especially my coaches. They taught me to do it right, but I didn’t, that was my first mistake.

An athlete is someone who takes accountability.

A good athlete always leaves unsatisfied. They want more.

I did want more. My tears showed the passion I had for the sport, and it was just the beginning. I learned to take that mindset of an athlete and go with it. I continued to work harder, whether I wanted to or not.

Prosper hosted a home meet, a week after my bomb out, the same day I broke my first record and qualified for my first regional meet. I didn’t place, but I showed up, which is the first step to success in my book.

My motivation grew as an athlete, which made me decide to come back to the team for my senior year.

I worked out during the off-season and built my strength. I stress a lot, probably more than the average teenager, but I see that as a sign that I’m still human, and that I care — a lot. Lifting was sometimes another stressor because I wanted this to be my best last season, something to look back on. So, during the time I wasn’t studying seven days a week, I was either squatting, benching, or deadlifting. A month and a half of dedication finally made its run as I competed in my first meet of the 2024 season.

I was nervous for the invitational meet— it was lot of competition, but I finally saw my name on the board alongside the names of the other girls on my rack. I was the last one to go up, which meant I was starting with the most weight. That made me more nervous.

“What if I don’t get it?”

“What if I fail?”

“Am I going to bomb out again?”

I stopped all the “what-ifs.” I was there, and I was not leaving without happy tears. The nerves disappeared as a coach from another high school pointed at my name and opening squat, looked at his girls, and said, “you’ll get there, don’t worry.” It shot my nerves down and boosted my confidence. I took first place, in that meet, breaking all PHS records for the 114-weight class. My second meet at PHS, I took second place, breaking my own records once again. My performance qualified me for state. I was in shock. I kept telling myself I’d do it, but I never really thought it would happen.

Now, I had all eyes on me to go to state. My potential was at its peak and so was my stress. I continued throughout the season with equal amounts of laughter and emotional crying, but the time for state came soon.

Cut weight, gain weight, and repeat.

The team did this, I did this. The fluctuation of weight and emotions was tiring on its own, but it was time to lift at my last meet.

“Down, judges!” Red light.

“Down, judges!” Red light.

“Down, judges!” Last red light.

I bombed out. I failed.

I was emotional and distraught. I had given away my only chance and felt like a failure. But then, both Coach Thompson and assistant powerlifting coach Devin Lemons gave me a speech, telling me that a real athlete is based on the person, not the sport. They made me realize that powerlifting gave me a passionate love for something that wasn’t school or family. It also taught me leaving unsatisfied is a sign of a powerful individual who cares deeply. I realized that I’m not a failure — things just didn’t play out the way I wanted them to. I got myself all the way to state, which not everyone can say they did. It’s not for the medal, the place, or the number. It’s for me. Only I can be disappointed in myself, not anyone else. They’re not doing it, I am. I choose how I can feel. Rather than crying under the bleachers like I did at my first meet that I bombed, I cheered and forgot.

Then I found out that I was one of  five girls who received a scholarship and made it onto the 6A First Academic All-State Team. I quickly proved that I don’t have to be the perfect athlete I thought I needed to be, but the best individual I can be.

All senior powerlifters were given the opportunity to apply for this scholarship from the Texas High School Women Powerlifting Association, but only one application could be chosen from each school. Out of the six females going to state from PHS, five of us were seniors, and the coach could only pick one.  Each of the applicant’s letters were given to a coach who didn’t know the members of the team, and they would choose the one application they thought fit best. I was chosen, me. It was not for my athletic ability, but for my original talent that made me step out of my comfort zone: academics.

I found it funny that I was the one chosen for my grades at a sporting event because it was the first determination I had toward something and my last for my high school career. I’m grateful for the team I chose to be on and the coaches who invested in me, even through my ‘crybaby’ moments. The Lady Eagle Powerlifting team will always be unforgettable.

Powerlifting Scholarship Letter
Juliana Cruz 6A Scholarship Letter

Ever since I was young I never knew much about sports or even played them, considering the fact I grew up in Queens, New York City where the only “sport" was recess. My parents weren’t able to afford to put me in a program where I was personally taught or coached, so they enrolled me in the public education system and said to my siblings “education is everything.” 

I moved to Frisco, Texas during a sensitive transition, a freshman in high school, with my only drive being to be top of my class in academics. It was only during the pandemic of 2019 that I found the gym, like most teenagers did, trying to get out the house and meet other teens my age. I made some friends but none of them stuck so I turned to the weights. 

In 2022, I moved once again to another school, Prosper High School. This new move helped me step out of conformity. As a new student, not having any friends, I reverted to what I knew which was the gym. I was tired of always pushing for my grades and not enough with other extracurriculars. First, it started with a newspaper during my junior year. I involved myself heavily into the newspaper, later receiving a promotion to Editor-in-Chief of Eagle Nation Online during my senior year. 

During one of my late sessions at the newspaper, I heard a peer of mine speaking of powerlifting and at this stage never really considered lifting weights outside of my normal gym sessions. She referred me to the head coach, Brian Thompson, and briefly explained it with three words, “squat, bench and deadlift” — the three movements I was scared to hit at my local gym. Not fully understanding the expectations from being a powerlifter, I asked how to join, leading me to start during December of my junior year. I didn’t join the team with any significant expectations, however I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the beginning of an entirely new era in my high school career. I made so many friends, which is a rare occurrence for me, and I was able to relate with them about something I didn’t realize I loved yet, powerlifting. 

The 2023 season ended with a qualification to regionals surrounded by my closest people, including my dedicated coach, and it wouldn’t have happened without their support and for pushing me to keep going, even after “bombing out” in a previous meet. Those friends carried into my senior year which made the 2024 season even more thrilling, leading me to qualify for regionals, again. 

My family, nor myself, never expected to be going to these extracurricular meets halfway through my high school career. Without question, they supported me, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity. This extracurricular activity became a passion and helped me take this opportunity to a collegiate level. I never thought that I’d be on a team, especially a sports team, but Prosper has given me that chance and I’m glad that I will be taking it to the University of Oklahoma. 



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About the Contributor
Juliana Cruz
Juliana Cruz, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Juliana Cruz, a former native New Yorker, is a senior at Prosper High School. This is her second year working for Eagle Nation Online and she serves as social media manager, news editor and Editor in Chief. She enjoys writing and wants to continue to expand her coverage. Outside of school and work, she is on the powerlifting team and spends her time with family.
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2 Best of SNO's, 2023
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    Arman N.Mar 23, 2024 at 1:56 am

    I am more than proud of not only your ability to reflect on what you’ve accomplished but also your dedication and commitment towards your goals. Outstanding column written by the best. Great job this year Juliana!