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Turner Stanek in his gear at Nationals in Spokane, Washington. Submitted photo

When Turner Stanek arrived at the 2018 USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals in Spokane, Washington, earlier this month, he wasn’t nervous until he noticed all the “very large people.”

They must have been truly humongous, because although only 15 years old, Stanek is no slouch, standing six feet tall and weighing in at around 230 pounds. Literally in a class to himself — he was the only competitor in his age and weight group — Stanek achieved personal bests by deadlifting 507 pounds, back squatting 430 pounds and winning his first national championship.

Turner Stanek flashing his gold at Nationals. Submitted photo

When Stanek was 13 years old and first walked into CrossFit Maricopa a couple of years back, his height immediately stood out to the gym’s owner, Scott Bradley, who is now one of Stanek’s coaches.

“He’s a big kid, tall, and he was definitely growing very quickly,” Bradley said.

Though powerfully built, Stanek was never really into any of the sports he played recreationally. “I was super overweight a few years ago before I started it,” Stanek said.

That started to change when his best friend, a young lady by the name of Alexis Ball, took some time off from competitive gymnastics and started working out at CrossFit Maricopa.

“She kept bringing it up and I was like, ‘I’ll try it,’ but never really did,” Stanek said. “I remember I was sitting on the couch and I was super bored and I texted her.”

Stanek said when Ball explained CrossFit to him as “a really fun way of working out,” he decided to give it a try.

“I ended up loving it,” Stanek said.

Turner Stanek before starting at CrossFit Maricopa. Submitted photo

After participating in CrossFit classes for six months, another of Turner’s future coaches suggested he give powerlifting a go. He quickly took to the sport, entering his first competition about six months after that. During that competition, his mother Danica Stanek noticed her son’s coaches huddled tightly in conversation. When they called her over, she was worried something was wrong.

“When I walked over there, they’re like, ‘Turner’s broken all three state records,'” Danica said, explaining he’d set the state record for back squats, bench press and deadlifts, the three events that make up a powerlifting competition.

“Obviously, I was glowing with pride,” Danica said.

The coaches explained Turner might break another record and didn’t want to tell him until the scores were final. When Turner competed in the USA Powerlifting Arizona 2018 State Championship in April, he again broke records — this time his own — and qualified to compete in nationals.

Stanek continued to train with CrossFit Maricopa’s powerlifting team, which he describes as his “second family.” While the gym takes safety and working out seriously, the spirit of mutual support and fun are at its core.

“I told Turner that I want him to have fun more than anything,” Bradley said. “I didn’t want to make it drudgery.”

Both of Turner’s families were with him at nationals in Spokane, where he joined over 1,000 other muscly competitors, some national record holders. Though Turner arrived earlier, he didn’t compete until Sunday, the event’s last day. He spent most of the morning in the warm-up room with his coach, Bradley, before moving to the competition floor shortly after noon.

“The way Scott does it is he doesn’t let me see what weights that I’m doing for each lift,” Turner said. “I feel like it really helps because you don’t get in your head about it. You don’t know if you’ve done this weight before. That’s what I like about it.”

Setting personal bests for deadlifts and back squats while putting up very respectable numbers for bench press, Stanek achieved his first — though likely far from last — national championship.

“To put up those kind of numbers as a 15-year-old is hard to even fathom,” coach Bradley said. “Most 15 year olds are more concerned with other stuff.  To see him doing this and getting good grades in school and being the kind of person that he is, it’s amazing. He’s a great all-around kid and his brothers really look up to him.”

While his mom couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments and attitude, she noted there were a number of fringe benefits to having a powerlifting national champion for a son.

“He’s great at carrying in groceries and moving stuff around,” Danica Stanek said.

Turner Stanek (upper left) with his mother Danica and two brothers at Nationals. Submitted photo

Turner Stanek, 15, went after his own state records. Submitted photo

A Maricopa teenager raised the bar during his first power lifting competition last year and is building on his reputation this year.

Turner Stanek, 15, broke state records in the back squat (352 pounds), deadlift (435 pounds) and bench press (198 pounds) at the USA Powerlifting Apeman Strong Fest in Phoenix Sept. 23.

“This is all new to him and it’s pretty awesome,” said Stanek’s mother, Danica.

Last Sunday at the USA Powerlifting Arizona 2018 State Championship, the Mountain Pointe sophomore beat his own records in back squat and deadlift and maintained his previous holding in the bench press category.

He’s now qualified to participate in the 2018 USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals this October in Spokane, Washington.

Turner’s passion for the sport began with encouragement and training from friends and staff at Maricopa CrossFit.

“It’s astonishing because two years ago today I wouldn’t have thought I would hold three records or that I could back squat 402 pounds,” Turner said.

The process produced a physical and mental metamorphosis.

Turner gained muscle and lost pounds with cross fit and powerlifting competitions.

“He has literally gone from kind of a chubby adolescent to looking like a 25-year-old man,” said Danica Stanek. “It’s crazy.”

The once introverted teen also increased his confidence and has since broadened his social horizons by joining clubs at school and encouraging others to accomplish their own fitness goals.

Work inside the gym taught Turner to deal with his emotions.

“I can put all that anger into the bar and take it out on the bar because that’s all the bar wants me to do,” Turner said.

He plans to compete in regional competitions this summer ahead of the national event in September.

Stanek said he wants to be a well-known powerlifter and help others with their fitness ambitions.

“It’s a great feeling what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it as much as you do for powerlifting,” Turner said.

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