Powerlifting 

Arlee woman breaks records

Inside a 900-square-foot garage in Ronan, bumper plates clang together as Rachelle Meidinger sets up for her weightlifting routine on a Sunday afternoon.

While standing in stocking feet, she gradually adds 225 pounds to the thick silver bar. She bends down and pauses a moment before lifting the entire rack up to her shoulders in one easy movement. She lowers it down to her knees before bringing it back up, breathing heavily. Her trainer, James Greene, counts her reps.

"Ugh, I'm out of shape," Meidinger says.

"Suck it up, buttercup," Greene tells her, with good humor.

It's the 21-year-old Arlee woman's first day back in the weight room since a recent record-setting victory in Las Vegas. On Nov. 22, she competed at the 2015 World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters Championships and broke her own world record by bench-pressing 265 pounds. She also holds the Montana state record for deadlifting 369 pounds.

What's more, Meidinger has only been competing in powerlifting since March, when she debuted in the Big Sky Montana Classic Bench Press and Dead Lift Championships. She'd been weightlifting since high school, and her family encouraged her to sign up.

At the Big Sky Classic, she drew the notice of longtime lifters like Greene, who chairs the state chapter of WABDL. He offered to train her at no cost in his garage, where he's set up a professional-level weight room using an estimated $10,000 in equipment sourced from eBay and Craigslist.

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Greene says Meidinger, at more than 221 pounds, is bigger and stronger than most other women who participate in powerlifting.

"I know what she's capable of," Greene says. "With younger lifters, it's good to have somebody that you've trained with to help you."

Greene, 45, has spent decades competing in powerlifting and strongman contests, placing at international meets and even appearing on ESPN2. These days, Greene works full-time as an IT tech but still trains friends and family as a hobby. His mother, Virginia Cornelius, owns two world records for lifting in the 75-plus age group.

Greene warns that powerlifting is a sport that offers little chance for fame or riches, but Meidinger is focused on the future, including a regional contest in Spokane in May. She says lifting has already made a huge difference in her life.

"I have bipolar disorder and anxiety and depression and stuff like that, so it was a tool in my little toolbox of things to make me feel better," she explains.

After beating the world record and being interviewed by local news outlets, she starting getting fan mail.

"All of a sudden people were sending me cards in the mail telling me they were so thankful for what I said in there, that they struggled with it too, that they were happy somebody actually talked about it," she says. "So that was cool."

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