Tucked into a narrow strip mall just off Evergreen Way in south Everett happens to be one of the world’s hotbeds of women’s masters powerlifting.
EGO Strength and Performance is the home base of the Team Phoinix powerlifting team, and this week Team Phoinix is sending five members to compete against the best female masters powerlifters the world has to offer.
The International Powerlifting Federation’s Masters Powerlifting Championships begin next Monday in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and when they take place they will have a decidedly Snohomish County flavor.
The five Team Phoinix members headed to Masters Worlds, which are for competitors ages 40 and over, are Andrea Page and Becky Meister of Everett, Colleen Hansford of Lake Stevens, Cindy Goodrich of Bothell and Leslie Macko of Auburn. All five have competed on the international stage before, and the tight-knit group is hoping to to come back from South Africa with a fistful of medals.
“It’s exciting,” said Page, who’s competing in the Master 1 83-kilogram division. “There’s always a little bit of nerves involved, even though I’ve competed many times. But we know we’ve put the work in.”
The Team Phoinix members qualified for worlds by finishing in the top two at the USA Powerlifting Open Nationals held May 9-12 in Lombard, Illinois.
Powerlifting consists of three disciplines: bench press, deadlift and squat. Competitors lift in each discipline, then the total combined score determines the overall winners.
Masters Worlds divides the competitors into age groups — Master 1 is for ages 40-49 and so forth — and then within the groups the competitors are sorted by weight class.
This competition also happens to be equipped as opposed to raw. Raw lifting involves the use of little or no assisting equipment, while equipped lifting involves wriggling into a super-tight shirt that aids in both performance and safety.
“When you first get the shirt on it’s miserable,” Page said. “It takes a lot of energy just getting it on, and a lot of people think it’s cheating. But it takes skill to lift in equipped gear. You’re dealing with something so tight on your body you can barely breathe. But you can lift more weight and you feel safe and secure.”
All five Team Phoinix members came to powerlifting later in life, as none have been competing in the sport longer than eight years. Indeed, the closest any of the five had to having prior powerlifting experience is Goodrich’s history as a professional bodybuilder. The other four came into the sport cold.
“I think the reason I took to powerlifting is because I could dedicate myself in the gym with a goal in mind,” said Hansford, who’s competing in the Master 2 (50-59) 72-kilogram division. “Prior to that the gym was just kind of to lose that baby weight, or it was kind of a stress reliever. But I could never really take it anywhere beside that. There’s a lot more to powerlifting.”
Under the stewardship of coach Kevin Stewart, a former national and international champion, along with the bond formed by being teammates, the quintet have thrived. Both Page and Goodrich have claimed gold medals at worlds before, each winning her division in 2017 in Sweden. Hansford won silver in Sweden, while Meister (Sweden) and Macko (2018 in Mongolia) have each won bronze.
“It was awesome (winning gold in Sweden), because you get to stand up on the podium while they play the national anthem,” said Goodrich, who is competing in the Master 3 (60-69) 52-kilogram division. “It’s kind of like the Olympics.”
Having several teammates competing at Worlds means the Team Phoinix members know they’ll have plenty of support in South Africa.
“We’re kind of like family,” said Meister, who’s competing in the Master 1 83-kilogram division. “We hang out outside of practice, there’s a lot of back-and-forth banter at practice, and our coach is super supportive of us. He encourages us to do our best and he tries to bring it out in all of us.”
Indeed, Stewart is valued by the team members so much that the team held fundraisers — car washes, bake sales, T-shirt sales — to make sure Stewart was able to accompany them to Worlds.
The Team Phoinix members hope their exploits can serve as inspiration to others their age who may be curious about the sport.
“I would just like to see more older women doing this,” said Macko, who’s competing in the Master 4 (70-up) 63-kilogram division. “There is nothing special about me and what I’m doing, anybody who really wants to can. Too many people my age are afraid of the gym, and I wish that wasn’t true.”
And the Team Phoinix members are proving that age need not be an impediment, not only to participating in powerlifting, but excelling.
If you have an idea for a community sports story, email Nick Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.