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  • Jennifer Mecham

Elite #21 Hilary Harper

Updated: Apr 21

Hillary Harper In the early years of Diablo the Harper family was very active with the club. If you have been following this series you have already read Garrett's bio. His parents Cap and Adele trained here as well. When Adele found out that I had a background in exercise therapy another Harper joined the fold. Garrett's little sister came to Diablo to rehab a repetitive strain injury in her wrist. And, from that humble beginning who could have predicted the future?! With the wrist problem behind her, Hillary continued to train and developed an interest in getting stronger. Hillary Harper went on to become the first and/or (to our knowledge) the only woman in the history of powerlifting to total elite in 5 separate weight classes. I remember very early on spotting her on a missed attempt of a 115 lb squat. Her first bench day she worked up to a very modest 55 lbs. It took months before she even attempted a 225 deadlift. With consistency and perseverance she ultimately squatted over 500lbs (PR of 512) benched 358 and deadlifted 501!

Starting her career in the 165 class she made her first elite at a California State Meet and within a year made elite at 181 and 198. Her best total of 1372 was a top ten all time performance for American women in the 181 class. As her career was coming to a close some nagging injuries guided her to lose some bodyweight. This is when we got the idea of chasing history. Over the years her normal walking weight was 177lbs. Going all the way down to 148 didn't seem very likely. But she did and made an elite at 148. At this point I urged her to take some time and try to get near the 132 class limit as no woman had ever made 5 weight class elites. It seemed absurd and, even if she did manage to get her body that light would she be able to still be strong enough to lift anything...much less total elite?

That training cycle was a grueling day by day process. As we neared the meet we had a plan but it was still questionable as to whether or not she could actually make the cut. The weight cut started 30 hours out. Normally we never do a longer than 24 hour depletion phase so already we were in uncharted territory. She missed weight on the first several attempts but was close. And I was monitoring her even closer. After a few more failed attempts I told her I was going to give one more pass on the scale before I pulled her out of the meet. The last try yielded exactly 132...spot on! At the contest she squatted 385, benched 225 and deadlift 374 to get her a 5th and final elite, something never done before. A perfect end to a stellar career.


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