LA GRANDE — When her junior softball season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Harley Creech found an outlet in weightlifting.
“I was stuck at home for a while, obviously, so I was looking for something to do because I didn’t have softball practice and wasn’t able to go out and do the things I normally do,” she said.
Before the summer was even halfway over, she had become a record-breaking state champion.
Creech, who will be a senior at La Grande High School this fall, won her division in the Eastside Invitational in Springfield July 25. In the process, Creech set a state record not only in the youth girls division — she posted marks that were records in the division above her, the women’s junior division.
Creech, 17, recorded a lift of 192 pounds in the clean and jerk, a personal record by 2 pounds, and added a mark of 146 pounds in the snatch, which was 3 pounds off her personal best in the lift.
“I was pretty nervous, but I think the adrenaline definitely helped me,” she said. “On a normal training day you don’t hit those kinds of numbers.”
She also surged to sixth in the nation as a youth and as a junior.
Both of Creech’s parents lift, and she said she had lifted with them sporadically, but when school and sports were brought to a halt, she started a lifting program with her father.
“That was something to keep me busy during the day,” she said of the 12-week program.
When they started the program, she could lift 125 pounds in the snatch and 170 in the clean and jerk.
“We saw a lot of improvement over those 12 weeks, so we wanted to see what else I could do with an actual coach who could help me,” she said.
The search led them to an Olympic weightlifting coach on the other side of the state.
“We found a coach to see how it went,” she said. “I’ve been lifting with my parents a little bit — not Olympic lifting but more powerlifting for a while — but this is new.”
Her coach, Mason Kobernik, is based in the Portland area, so Creech would receive a training regimen from him and send videos to be analyzed.
Everything headed into the state competition in Springfield was foreign for the teenager — and her family.
“I had no idea what to expect because I had never been to one and my parents have never been to one,” she said.
It was also the first time she met her coach in person, though she thinks that could have fueled her drive.
“That added to the stress, I guess, but the nerves definitely were an advantage because of the adrenaline,” she said.
As it turned out, the first-timer put up a near perfect performance on her record-setting day.
“I made all three of my snatches and two out of three in my clean and jerks,” she said.
Creech will compete in the junior nationals, which will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, in December.