EDINBURG — IDEA Edinburg College Preparatory may be considered a small school, but there’s no question about its strength.

The IDEA Edinburg Eagles powerlifting teams have made tremendous gains in recent years to become one of the top schools to compete in Region 5 Division 3 of the Texas High School Powerlifting Association (THSPA).

In 2018, the girls powerlifting team captured the first team state championship in program history. Last season, the Eagles boys powerlifting squad won an individual state title.

Entering the 2020 season, the Eagles were focused on getting back to the THSPA and THSWPA State meets to put forth one last strong performance, especially for the seniors.

But the chance to win gold at state never came as the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of all sports activities across the state and most of the country. IDEA Edinburg athletic coordinator and powerlifting head coach Aida Gonzalez said it was difficult learning her seniors wouldn’t get one last chance to compete.

“They set their goal, they worked for it all junior and senior year, which was a senior year state championship all over again,” Gonzalez said. “We had a few girls that were supposed to win a state championship individually, and with those points, we could have won the state championship as a team. We also had a few boys who could have competed for an individual state championship. It’s pretty devastating as a coach to see them work so hard and hurt in the end because it was taken from them due to the unfortunate situation of COVID-19.”

Senior girls powerlifter Valery Cano, who competed in the 97-pound weight class this season, finished second at the state meet a season ago by 15 pounds. As part of the state championship team as a sophomore and finishing so close to individual gold as a junior, Cano used that motivation to put herself in position to win the state title as a senior.

“I didn’t like the feeling of how close I was, so I worked even harder this year. I was bitter, but this year I was projected to win first. I wanted to come back and get that first place title. This year was my best year,” Cano said.

Senior boys powerlifter Joey Rodriguez has been to the top of the mountain.

In 2019, Rodriguez was crowned state champion in the 114-pound weight class. This year, Rodriguez took on a new challenge, moved up a weight class and didn’t lose a step, or strength. At the THSPA Region 5 Powerlifting Meet in Bishop on March 13, he finished first in his new weight class of 123 pounds with a personal total record of 1,115 pounds, and was seeded second in Texas heading into the state meet. But Rodriguez won’t have the opportunity to repeat as state champ.

“I came in this year confident. I knew it was a new weight class, there’s going to be stronger people, but I’m going to get stronger myself, and I’m going to get first again,” Rodriguez said. “The cancellation struck me hard. It’s tough, but I had already done it before, so there was less pressure in letting it go.”

For girls powerlifter Melanie Morales, the cancellation of the powerlifting state meet her senior year was just another obstacle to overcome.

As a sophomore, Morales was on the team that won the state. Heading into the regional meet during her junior season, Morales was the top-ranked powerlifter in the 259-pound weight class. Poised to take first at regionals and hoping to follow that up at state, a leg injury the week of the regional powerlifting meet forced Morales onto the sidelines and prevented her from competing.

Despite suffering a partially torn ACL and meniscus in the late fall of her senior season, Morales put in the work to regain her form and earn the state’s top-ranking in the 259-pound weight class once again. At the regional meet, Morales set a personal record with a total of 1,210. When Morales saw she finished in first place, she hugged her family and shed some tears.  With the cancellation of the state meet, Morales once again has been forced to miss out on competing for a state championship. Throughout her athletic career, however, Morales has learned how to deal with whatever life throws her way.

“I’m so happy I was able to fight through it with the support behind me. My family, my coaches, my team, they always pushed me to not worry about what happened in the past and just to look forward,” Morales said. “I’m happy regionals was a great meet for me, but it was upsetting when I learned the state meet would be canceled because I wanted to place first at state, not just regionals. I just want people to know that if you have a goal in mind, don’t give it up. You can always keep trying.”

Gonzalez said she’ll look back on this year’s IDEA Edinburg Eagles powerlifting group as one that found ways to battle through adversity.

“This year’s powerlifting team will always be remembered for all the obstacles they faced throughout the season, and being able to overcome each and every one. They never gave up, even when they felt they had their backs against the wall. The many memories made in and out of the weight room will always be cherished,” Gonzalez said.