Harley Creech weightlifter

La Grande High School senior Harley Creech trains Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, at Eagle Cap Crossfit, La Grande. She took sixth place in the virtually conducted junior nationals competition Dec. 3-6.

LA GRANDE — It has been said by many a coach that athleticism cannot be taught. For some, it is as natural as breathing or falling asleep.

That appears to be especially true in the case of Harley Creech, who took up olympic weightlifting after the COVID-19 pandemic derailed regular high school sporting seasons.

Since then, she’s broken state records, claimed the title of state champion and stood out at national competitions.

“My first competition ever, I qualified for nationals, which is not something that we expected,” Creech said.

Now a senior at La Grande High School, Creech claimed sixth place in a junior national competition earlier this month — less than a year after taking up the sport. The contest was conducted over Zoom after the in-person event in Atlanta, Georgia, was canceled due to the pandemic.

“It was my first ever nationals, so it was a bummer to be online, but I’m still happy that I got to compete,” Creech said.

Her family watched her lift for the competition at her local gym while others watched via livestream.

Managing to beat her personal best in-competition performance, Creech lifted just shy of 363.7 pounds across two events — 156.5 pounds in the snatch and 207.2 pounds in the clean-and-jerk, earning her a top-10 spot.

“I would say I push just as hard in training as I do in competition,” she said. “But I think the adrenaline in competition helps for sure.”

Creech said she misses competing in team sports. The Oregon School Activities Association has delayed seasons until February 2021.

“I like the team aspect of softball, and with weightlifting I’m kind of on my own,” she said. “There’s not a lot of weightlifters in this area, so I don’t have people to train with necessarily, but I love both (sports). I can’t really compare.”

While Creech said that she and her family haven’t decided what comes next, she hopes to compete at the next national competition in March in Detroit, Michigan.


Newest reporter with the La Grande Observer and Union County native. Coverage includes COVID-19, news stories, sports, business and community issues. If you've got a news tip, send it to news@lagrandeobserver.com

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