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U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Uplifting: Sophomore Austin Siu finds passion for powerlifting

Ellis Calleri
RAISING THE BAR. Austin Siu performs a deadlift, raising the weight-loaded barbell off the ground from a standing position before straightening his back to complete the lift.

It’s 4 p.m. on a Monday, and the fitness center is packed with athletes training for their sports. Students pick up dumbbells, power through the leg press, utilize the cable machines and roll out their tight muscles on the floor. 

But for one student athlete, weight training — specifically the squat, bench press and deadlift — is his sport: powerlifting.

Sophomore Austin Siu’s strong passion for the unconventional sport of powerlifting takes him on a personal journey of self-improvement while inspiring others around him to do the same. 

Austin realized his love for powerlifting in eighth grade and followed the passion when he joined the powerlifting team as a ninth grader attending New Trier Township High School in north suburban Winnetka. 

“When I was younger, I did wrestling with my sister, and I never really liked the competitive aspect of it because it was like really, really unforgiving when you made a mistake,” Austin said. “That was not present in powerlifting. Everybody is cheering each other on, and it’s a competition where you’re not really competing with others, but yourself, and I don’t think you see that in any other sports.”

While the sport combines individual self-improvement, discipline and competition, Austin felt that having a team behind him greatly added to the experience and improved the learning environment. 

When Austin competed at the high school Natural Athlete Strength Association alongside his powerlifting team, he entered with excitement but fractured his pelvic bone while attempting the sumo squat during the competition. Austin is now working on improving his physiological structure and form to avoid future injuries. 

“After that experience, it helped me understand more about my body and how I can take care of it properly,” Austin said. “Not only did it help my training in the future, but also it changed my perspective on how I can be healthy as an individual who likes competitive powerlifting.”  

After the injury, Austin was unable to compete, and when he enrolled at U-High this year, he decided to stick to training, aiming to compete next year. However, without a school powerlifting team, Austin decided to take initiative by founding the Powerlifting Club. 

The club has paused meetings due to many members competing in school sports, but sophomore Yusuf Arain appreciates that Austin established the club.

“He really helped me,” Yusuf said. “He helped guide me through the beginning stages, and he was a mentor kind of figure for the gym after school.”

Pete Miller, the Powerlifting Club adviser who was a bodybuilder himself, knows the struggle of competing in a completely individual sport.

“There’s really no team,” Mr. Miller said. “You’re not winning team points or anything like that. So I think that’s a unique thing — somebody who’s able to thrive and really enjoy that environment that’s so individual.”

Austin’s persistence is seen by both Mr. Miller and Yusuf, as well as the community surrounding him.  

“He’s definitely super persevering, and he’s able to push through,” Yusuf said. “He works really, really hard, and that’s something you can tell the second you meet him.” 

While powerlifting does shape a lot of Austin’s life, he has concerns about fairness of the sport on a more competitive professional level, knowing that many of his competitors could be using steroids. He does not see himself competing after high school but will still practice the sport. 

“I think I’d continue it personally — just hobby lifting,” Austin said. “I don’t think that there’s a loss in not competing because it’s all a personal journey anyway.”

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About the Contributors
Jaya Alenghat
Jaya Alenghat, City Life Editor
Jaya Alenghat is a member of the Class of 2025 and serves as an assistant editor. She began journalism in the 2022-23 school year as a sophomore. Her favorite story she has written is “In finding community, English teacher provides comfort for Latinx students.” Outside of journalism, she enjoys playing tennis, reading and spending time with friends and family. Awards: 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, sports news story: excellent 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Certificate of merit, sports features, “Muslim student athletes navigate fasting during Ramadan while maintaining physical endurance” 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, Boston convention: Excellent, news writing
Ellis Calleri
Ellis Calleri, Photographer
Ellis Calleri is a member of the class of 2025 and is a beginning photojournalist. His favorite part of photojournalism is being able to grow his skills and knowledge of photography. Outside of photojournalism, Ellis enjoys working with metal and wood. He also enjoys Legos, gaming, hiking and photography.

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