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.
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.
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.