Rian Garza is one of the strongest girls in the state.
The ability to lift a total of 955 pounds, constantly breaking personal records, qualifying for regionals and state in different weight classes back-to-back, are not even what make the Kenedy High School senior tough.
Garza’s personal battle with her demons — anxiety and depression— proved to make her more resilient than any bar or weight plate ever could.
“Every time I went to lift that weight my life flashed before my eyes,” she said. “Every bad memory. All those horrible times and thoughts. It was the most emotional thing I’ve ever been through. I cried like a baby because I was releasing all those feelings and frustrations.”
Powerlifters met at 6 a.m. every morning.
Garza was there at 5:45 a.m. ready to go and pump up her teammates.
During the state meet in the 259-pound weight class, Garza hit a 420-pound squat rep, a 185-pound bench press and 350-pound deadlift.
Head Powerlifting Coach Cameron Murrah said he was most proud of Garza’s work ethic and leadership as team captain.
“She proved to herself that there’s no adversity she can’t defeat,” said Murrah. “She’s built up the skills to destroy any challenges she’s going to face in life. Now she knows she can succeed at anything because she never gave up.
“If she could get through all that, she can get through anything.”
Coach Murrah, who was aware of Garza’s challenges, said he too, found solace in the weight room after returning from a tour in Afghanistan while serving in the Army.
“Lifting weights saved my life,” he said. “Now I can connect with students who struggle and show them the path and what worked for me. Too many kids are dealing with circumstances they shouldn’t have to.”
“If I can get them to trust me and trust the process then the product will take care of itself.”
Garza said her large, bronze state medal is now displayed in the living room of her home at the hand of her mother who is very proud of her accomplishments.
Tanya Castillo, assistant powerlifting coach, who was brought in specifically to help with the growing girls’ team in 2019, said Garza realizing her own potential meant the sky was the limit for the season.
“She never says no or backs down from the fight,” said Castillo. “She loves lifting, she wants to be here, she wants do better every time she gets on that platform. It’s been amazing to see her grow and break records and push the rest of the team to do their best.”
Garza said she will be continuing her powerlifting career at Texas State University and plans to become a travel nurse.
“Lifting is a head game,” she said. “I was at competition with myself and I had to remember that I’m strong enough to get through this and never going to settle for anything less.”
Coach Murrah believes Garza is ready for the transition to a college team and will continue to support his star athlete.
“I don’t think it was a coincidence that the last lift of her high school career was a deadlift,” he said. “That weight represented all the negative in her life. She picked it up and grinded it out because she knew when she set it down, she would never have to pick it up again. She never has to pick up that anxiety again. She left it all on that platform.
“I’m so proud of her. Yeah the medal is nice. But the real reward was her defeating her demons.”