Carrying the Weight: Porter’s Garley wins Powerlifting State Championship
HOUSTON – Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders can be a crushing feeling at times. It takes an insurmountable amount of strength to push through.
Bella Garley was faced with the weight as she stepped up to the weight rack at the 2022 Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association 5A Big School State Championships on March 19. Not just the discs placed on each end of the bar, but everything else.
Her father, Dale, was lying in a hospital bed in Houston, dealing with complications from a leg amputation surgery since December 2020. Her mother, Amy, had just come in from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Bella was born and raised until the seventh grade, as she works out of state. On top of all of that, the Porter High School senior had been home with the flu and unable to lift the previous week.
Despite all of that, all the adversity of the last week and the last year, Bella did what she does – carry it.
Bella, competing in the 259-pound division, squatted 395 pounds, benched 215 pounds and deadlifted 355 pounds. It gave her a total of 965 pounds for the state meet and the 2022 THSWPA State Championship in her division.
“I did have this anxiety, but I was able to channel it into my lifts and use it as motivation to give me the strength to life PRs that I hadn’t before,” Bella said. “It is very empowering, because it was just me. I worked by myself, and I was able to succeed at the highest level. It tells me I am a lot stronger than I think I am physically and mentally. It was an indescribable feeling.”
Once Bella secured the state title, winning by 65 pounds, she immediately ran over to Amy in the stands, and they embraced.
“We just hugged because of everything we’ve been through the past few years,” Bella said. “I was able to overcome it and come out on top.”
After making the trip back from Corpus Christi, Bella and Amy headed to the hospital. The senior walked into the room to see her dad. The next thing she did was show him her state championship medal.
“For me to win and come back, and for my dad seeing me succeed, I think is giving him something to look forward to,” Bella said.
Now, what you may be thinking is Bella has been a powerlifter her entire high school career and this was the culmination of years of work.
In fact, Bella has played softball since she was three years old and plays for Porter. She is also signed to go play at the next level at Kilgore College.
So, where did powerlifting come from?
“I liked the individuality of it,” said Bella, who is in her first year of powerlifting. “Softball, I have been playing all of my life, which is a team-oriented sport. But with powerlifting, it is an individual thing, and it can be very empowering once you find your worth through it. I realized I was decent at it, and so I wanted to be incredible at it.”
It was also a chance for her to go outside the box of just playing softball, which Bella said is something her parents encouraged her to do.
What powerlifting also gave her, outside of being a state champion in her senior year, was empowerment.
“It has given me a tremendous amount of confidence,” Bella said. “As a female athlete, I struggled a lot with body image. I’ve always had that issue of feeling that I don’t belong in certain sports because I look a certain way. Going to powerlifting and, with it being this broad spectrum of girls who can all be good at it, but we’re all built differently, it gives a tremendous self confidence boost.”
As she plays her final season of softball for Porter this spring, Bella hopes that her stepping into the weight rack for powerlifting will give another girl the same feeling it gave her.
“For me coming into powerlifting this year, if I saw somebody that looked like me, I’d be like ‘Oh, I can do it’,” she said. “Hopefully, I can be that person for other girls.”