HOLDEN, LA (WAFB) - High school weight rooms are a lonely place this time of year. Many of the year’s sports have wrapped up their seasons. For the athletes, it’s a time to relax and recover, to reflect on the season’s accomplishments and what might have been.
Inside the Holden Rocket weight room, Lauren Politz twists her toes into the floor and pauses beneath the squat rack.
“This is my sport,” Politz said as she lifts a bar with 135 pounds on it, a light lift for the junior weighing 150 lbs.
Her coach, Dave White, agrees.
“From the get, she was strong.” That’s what White was looking for in August of 2018 when he started the Rocket’s powerlifting team. But it takes more than strength to be a powerlifter.
“When I started powerlifting,” Politz said, “I learned to focus.” That focus is what brings Politz to the powerlifting room instead of on the road with her friends. Politz has something to prove. For her, last season almost ended before it started.
Politz was in a car crash about a mile and a half from her home.
“She called me,” remembers Lauren’s mom, Misty Oliphant. “'Mom, I got in a wreck.' It was terrifying for me. She handled it way better than I did.”
It looked bad, but everyone was OK. Oliphant brought Politz to the emergency room just to be sure though. There, doctors found something they did not expect.
“I was thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal because it could have been a lot worse,” Politz said.
“Cancer is a scary word,” Oliphant said. “No matter what type it is.”
Doctors found a tumor on Politz’s thyroid gland. They scheduled surgery as quickly as they could... two weeks before the Rocket’s first weightlifting competition. Politz was focused on one thing: making it to practice.
“It was like, man, you could have taken the day off,” White laughed. “I would have understood.”
But Politz was focused. She trained all the way up to the day the doctor laid her on the table.
“Right after surgery, he came out and told us he removed the thyroid and 19 lymph nodes,” Oliphant said. “Fourteen of those tested positive for cancer. Her doctor made it clear had she not been in that wreck, it would have gone un-diagnosed for quite some time.”
During her two-week recovery period, Politz thought of one thing: training for her first tournament.
“She never let it be an excuse,” said White. “Lots of people would have said, ‘I could’ve done really well, but I had bad things happen.'”
Politz lifted in that first competition. As a matter of fact, she lifted in every meet of the season, all the way to the state 5-A championship. She set personal records in every lift: a 300-pound squat, 145-pound bench press, and 315-pound deadlift.
She lifted enough weight to earn herself the state title in the 165-pound weight class, and help lead her team to state runner-up. She also won the outstanding lifter trophy.
“To be able to handle that adversity and never let it affect her, maybe it did, but it never affected her in here," said White. “It says a lot about her character.”
So does lifting in an empty room in the off season, but Politz is focused on state records in 2020. She will be lifting healthy with a target on her back.