Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Los Lunas High School’s cafeteria was the site Monday of a dual powerlifting meet with Valencia.

LOS LUNAS — The Los Lunas High School cafeteria was filled late Monday afternoon with clanking sounds and chattering students, but there wasn’t a lunch tray in sight.   

However, there was a “weight” staff; volunteers spotting the lifters and making sure the correct poundage is placed on the bar.   

The LLHS powerlifting team hosted Valencia in a dual meet, with the equipment for three stations moved into the cafeteria to provide more room for competitors and spectators.    

“Initially, we were going to an APS meet, but that means we can only take 12 of the 48,” team members, according to Tigers coach Nathanial Charley. “That kind of bugged me.”  

That led Charley to discuss possible options with LLHS administration.  

“Let’s find a place where we can get everybody lifting,” he said. “Let’s start a tradition here in Valencia County.”   

“I like it, the environment,” said Los Lunas 198-pound lifter Aiden Martinez about this meet and others in general. “Everyone is happy, cheering you on. It’s amazing.” 

Valencia’s Elijah Duran competes Monday in a powerlifting meet at the Los Lunas High School cafeteria.

VHS coach Jose Lopez believes the Jaguars can qualify as many as seven athletes in both the boys and girls divisions of the state meet, which is scheduled for April 12-13 at the Rio Rancho Events Center. There are three classes; 1A/2A/3A, 4A and 5A.   

“I can’t emphasis enough how hard these kids work and have bought into the program,” Lopez said, including the classroom. “They work hard in all areas.”  

One example is Jovanny Maldonado, who is in line to be the VHS valedictorian.  

“I think it’s a sport for everyone,” said Maldonado, who competed in soccer but enjoys the individual aspects of powerlifting. “It’s just you versus yourself. You’re constantly trying to improve.”   

Charley, the meet director, says many of his LLHS athletes participate in other sports. Some will lift first, then head to cheerleading or track practice.  

“Powerlifting is a place where they know they can get better for themselves,” he said. “They know what they need to work on.”     

The state rankings fluctuate, but to start the week, Los Lunas had one lifter in the 5A top five — Quinn Bachicha at super heavyweight.  

Valencia had two in the top five in 4A — Angel Lind (308) and Taedon Gibson (super heavyweight).   



As the Los Lunas meet was getting started, the Belen Eagles were going through their normal workout in the BHS weight room. The Eagles did not take part in Los Lunas because their schedule had already been set.  

“It’s been really, really good. Good participation,” said coach Chris Peralta, who has a full boy’s roster, along with five girls.   

Two of the lifters are ranked No. 1 in the state in 4A.  

Lilith Baca, in just her first year of competition, is No. 1 at 148 pounds.  

“I thought it would be fun, so I decided to join. I didn’t expect it at all,” Baca said of her top ranking. “It puts on a lot of pressure. I make sure I practice a lot — keep improving.” 

Ivander Wilson, of Belen, is New Mexico’s No. 1 ranked powerlifter in two weight classes.

It is a bit unusual, but Belen’s other No. 1 lifter is first in two weight classes. Ivander Wilson, one of several football players on the team, is top ranked at 181 and 198 pounds.   

“I honestly didn’t expect that. I’m not going to lie,” said Wilson, who others go to for advice and encouragement. “It’s just insane to see what some of these kids can do. You’ve got small kids that are doing like 300 pounds, which is crazy.”   

Other Belen lifters ranked in the top five are Asia Wilson (114) and Valeria Bannuelos (148).   

Powerlifting includes three events: squat, deadlift and bench press. All the pounds lifted are added together for a final score. 

“We’ve been going against the bigger schools and doing OK,” Peralta said about second-place finishes at Eldorado and Atrisco Heritage.   

“We’re trying to build more of a family atmosphere. They’re very tight, very close,” Peralta said of the team. 

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.