Powerlifter muscles her way to top spot at national tournament

Ellie Song places first in her weight division with a 245 lb. squat


Lula Fox

Song holding her first place award from the 2019 Powerlifting High School Nationals

Break time is almost over as she inhales deeply, the stench of sweat and dedication filling her nose. She is eager to get back to lifting, adrenaline pumping through her veins at the prospect of achieving a new personal record.  

For junior Ellie Song, president of the New Trier Powerlifting Club, those long hours of hard work paid off. In early November, Song and 89 other lifters participated in the virtual High School Throwdown, a national powerlifting tournament. Song placed first in her division with a 245 lbs. squat. 

. . . I was able to learn that it’s necessary to fail a lift once in a while because you need to be able to track how much progress you make and see how much you’re capable of”

— Ellie Song

Not only is Song’s physical strength what makes her a great power lifter, but also her passion for the sport. Song first got involved in weightlifting the summer before her freshman year and she has loved it ever since. 

“The summer before freshman year, I did the summer strength and conditioning camp for athletes and I genuinely fell in love. I had played volleyball and basketball in the past, but I just knew those weren’t for me. They were never fulfilling like weightlifting. I genuinely enjoy feeling really strong after a workout, that sense of accomplishment––I don’t think you can get it anywhere else.” 

For Song, the best part of powerlifting has been the sense of camaraderie amongst her teammates. 

“Lifting in general has opened me up to a new circle of people I would not have met,” Song states. “The dynamic, the encouraging environment, and how we challenge each other is everything. I would never have been able to accomplish what I have without my teammates supporting me.” 

The motivational atmosphere of weightlifting is evident in competitions as well, even between opponents. 

“While my teammates and I do compete individually, at the end of the day, it’s a team sport and every single person on that roster matters. As well as that, I’ve never played a sport where everyone is so encouraging regardless of whether or not you’re on the same team. They’re all on your side; they want you to get the weight up, they don’t want you to get hurt.”  

Not only has powerlifting improved Song’s physical endurance, but it has strengthened her mental fortitude and taught her resilience. 

“Powerlifting means stepping out of my comfort zone. Before, failing a lift was really hard on me mentally and it took me a long time to recover and bounce back. However, eventually I was able to learn that it’s necessary to fail a lift once in a while because you need to be able to track how much progress you make and see how much you’re capable of.” 

Powerlifting coach Jim Davis says that Song’s resilience is what sets her apart from other lifters. 

“Ellie’s greatest strength is her mindset. The attitude and approach she brings to the team is one of dedication, consistency, and positivity. Whether she is warming up, catching up with her peers, or attempting a 300 pound back squat, she always seems to have a smile on her face.”

Davis said her persistence and endurance have allowed her to assume her leadership role in the Powerlifting Club. He noted that not only does she usually win her division, but she’s also a fantastic leader and friend to her teammates.

“Her combination of a positive mindset, dedicated approach, and athletic ability have put her in a position to be the President of Powerlifting Club as a junior. Very few people in the history of the team have accomplished that. Ellie is truly unique.”

Although Song has achieved so much in lifting, there are times when being a female in lifting negatively impacts the way people perceive her. Song says her gender has definitely altered people’s first impressions of her.  People may disapprove of her powerlifting because they think it’s a sport for boys. 

“If you go to the gym, obviously there will be less girls by the barbell area, or the squat racks, and other weights.”

Despite their being fewer girls than boys, Song has remained in the sport.

“Weightlifting is what I want to do. I don’t need to listen to the people that disagree with my decisions and don’t want to support me. I would never trade what I do now for anything else.” 

Powerlifting has helped Song gain a stronger sense of identity and help her build meaningful relationships. While she’s not sure she will continue to compete after high school, she does know she never wants to stop lifting. 

“I’m not lifting because I’m on the powerlifting team, I’m a part of the team because I love to lift. Lifting is a lifelong thing and it’s helped me find a sense of direction within sports.”