BRADFORD — Greg Hale may not have been there physically.
But, the man behind one of the most successful powerlifting programs in the state was there in spirit.
And, as the always do, the Bradford High School powerlifting program made him proud.
The Bradford girls won their first state team title since 2001, Bradford won six individual state titles and state several state records.
And along the way, they showed the heart and fight that reflected the man who started the program in 1988 and has been running it ever since.
Hale has been battling cancer for nine years and has been stage IV for the last seven years.
So, he knew this year had to be different.
“I just couldn’t risk it,” Hale said about COVID-19. “So, I took a year’s leave of absence. My son Curt took over the program. He has been around the program since he was was in a walker (as an infant). He had big shoes to fill. But, he was a three-time state champion and had been helping me with the program. He knows what it takes.
“It has been tough (not coaching). But, the good thing this year is a lot of the meets were live streamed, so I was able to watch most of them.”
Hale was not surprised by the girls performance.
Bradford won the meet with 5,260 pounds, while Piketon was second with 5,010 pounds.
“I knew we had a real strong girls team,” Hale said. “We hadn’t won the meet since 2,001. The big thing was beating Piketon. We had finished second to them a number of times since. We had 16 girls this year and they count the top eight (in the team total) at state. The girls had performed well all season.”
Ashlyn Kaiser (125), Macy Bubeck (135), Skipp Miller (155) and Courtney Monnin (195) all won state titles for the girls.
Miller tied the state record for squat in her weight class — set in 2,000 — with a 350-pound squat.
She had a total of 820 pounds (squat, bench, deadlift), while Kaiser had 610, Bubeck had 640 and Monnin 665.
“I am getting to the point now where I have second generation lifters and that helps,” Hale said. “Skipp’s dad Skip lifted for me and Anthony Monnin was one of my first lifters and his daughter Courtney won a state title.”
Finishing second for the girls were Belle Burgett (115), Jenna Shellabarger (125) and Aliviyah Boggs (145),
Zoe Brewer (135) was third and Maggie Manuel (175) was fourth.
Hannah Stine (145) and Sarah Beckstedt (unlimited) were fifth and Courtney Riffell (135) was sixth.
“The count the top eight in girls and we had four state champions,” Hale said. “That is pretty good. You look at the totals, we beat Piketon by 250 pounds.”
Ethan Saunders and Keaton Mead won state titles for the boys.
Saunders (135) set a state record for the bench press in his weight class with 255 pounds and finished with a total of 1,005 pounds.
Mead (165) had a 1,085 totals with a squad of 465 pounds.
“That gives us 54 state champions since 1990,” Hale said. “It is something the kids have always taken a lot of pride in. Keaton’s dad Andy lifted for me. Keaton had a goal to break his dad’s squat record and he did it by five pounds — and he won a state title as a junior, something his dad never did.”
Finishing third were Garrett Trevino (135), Ben Kitts (155) and Dylan Mitchell (195).
Kyle Kissinger (155) and Talen Brooks (125) were fifth and Patrick Puthoff (125) was 10th.
“They count the top 12 in boys (for the team total) and we only had nine lifters,” Hale said. “So, we really weren’t very high (in the team standings). But, we took nine boys over and eight of them placed. Curt did a great job motivating the kids.”
There was one big difference with this year’s meet.
“In the past you had that head-to-head competition,” Hale said. “This year (because of Covid), one school would come in an lift and then they would leave another school would come in. So, even though we lifted on Saturday, we didn’t find out until Sunday that we won. I made the trip over to Kenton Tuesday to pick up all our awards and the awards program was tonight (Thursday), so I am sure that is going to be pretty special.”
And Hale can’t wait to return to his coaching duties as he continues his battle with cancer.
“Actually, I feel really good right now,” Hale said. “I get my second (vaccine) shot here pretty soon and then I can get fitted for a prosthetic (he lost one of his legs in the battle with cancer). You know, I saw a 75-year old with a prosthetic out playing golf. I am just ornery enough to get out and see what I can do.
“I know Curt (Hale) wants me back coaching and Go willing, I will be coaching next year.”
And be with his lifters physically, as well as in spirit.