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Beyond the Pressbox

Trio of women pump iron the natural way

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A trio of older women who work out at a Las Cruces gym are making an impact in the sport of weightlifting and they are doing it the natural way.

Felica Hale, Storm Sermay and Roberta Stathis set or tied numerous national or state records at the Summer Nationals in Roswell this summer. The event was sponsored by the Natural Athlete Strength Association, which offers competitive weightlifting in a drug-free environment.

All three women, who look more like they should be baking cookies than pumping iron, qualified for the Masters Nationals in Oklahoma City Nov. 20-21.

“There is a lot of misconceptions about (weightlifting) – that it is for young guys who are muscle giants,” said their coach Rich Kahle who oversees the women and their workouts at 1 More Rep gym on El Paseo Road.

“This is more about personal achievement and competing against people who are the same size, the same age as they are and working on personal improvement,” he added.

Hale competes in the Master 3 Division (age 60-69) in what is known as powerlifting – squat, bench press and deadlift. She set national records in all three individual events and in the combined total in the 198-pound weight group.

Sermay competes in the Masters 4 Division (age 70-79) in what is called powersports – curl, bench press and deadlift. She also set national records in all three individual events and the combined total in the 132-pound weight class.

Stathis competes in the Masters 3 (60-69), also in powersports. She set New Mexico state records in the three individual events and in the combined total in her weight class of 119 pounds. She also tied the national record in the deadlift.

Stathis said she was going through a rough time earlier this year after her husband died.

She called herself a “mess” and tried to back out of her training but Kahle insisted that she come out and continue working out.

“It took my mind off being sad,” she said.

Stathis said when she arrived at the meet in Roswell, she was terrified of competing.

But she said she took off her glasses and thought, “I can’t see them so they can’t see me.”

“I had a blast,” she said.

Hale said she loves weightlifting and she just sets simple goals of doing better than she did at her last meet.

“You always fail, but it’s successful failures,” she said. “Wherever I left off at the last meet, that’s where I want to start at my next meet and go beyond that.”

Sermay said she started lifting weights about 20 years ago when she was doing triathlons but injured her foot and couldn’t run.

“I tried powerlifting; I could bend down and pick something up that was heavy,” she said.

Sermay took more than a dozen years off from the sport but started back up in 2020.

“You are competing against yourself,” Sermay said. “There is no competition against other people really. You are just trying to better what you are doing.”

Jodi Avalos also works out at the same gym and set national records in Roswell while qualifying for nationals in powerlifting in the 123-pound weight class in Masters 2 (age 50-59).

Kahle said it is never too late to give weightlifting a try.

“People think as they get older, ‘I can’t do that,’” he said.