The Hawley Bearcats aren't exactly a fixture at state tournaments. Over the past three years in powerlifting, it's been a different story. That's when coach Kevin Stoker and his assistant Cort Arthur took the reigns. Their passion for their kids and the program has taken the Bearcats to new heights.
"Hawley doesn't have that winning tradition," coach Stoker told KTXS on Thursday, "that's one thing we had to overcome. Our second year doing this we had a girl win state. That changed the perspective of all the other kids. Before the goal was to get to regionals or maybe get to state. Then they see someone win state so now their goal is, let's go win state."
They have won state titles in various weight classes ever since. In 2011 Angela Mooney was the girl's 148 lb champ and in 2012 Johnna Smith was the champ in 123's. This year, there are a host of boy's and girl's representing Hawley in the 2013 State meets.
"We just listen to them," Whitney Kitchen spoke of her coaches, "if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be where we are now."
"Of course they want us to win," varsity boy's lifter Clancy Manuel explained, "they want us to do good but at the end of the day, they're going to be there for us when we really need them."
The difference the coaching staff makes in the gym has shown up in meets. Assistant Cort Arthur talked about how high expectations became the norm.
"The expectations started coming higher," Arthur recalled, "we started realizing how strong the kids were, how good we could be at this and it just took of from there."
"Now we have kids coming to us," coach Stoker explained, "I want to go lift at state, I want to win a state championship. How do I do that?"
When describing what it's like to be perennial champions, Clancy Manuel said, their reputation precedes them.
"Every school is just watching us as we walk in. You can hear them say 'Awww man Hawley's here, there goes our first place medal," Manuel said.
They've won medals in 2013. leading all the way to State and though they hope to take 1st place state medals back to Hawley, coach Stoker and his kids never forget their bottom line.
"I feel like if the kids know you care, that's the secret," coach Stoker told KTXS.
"They're not only our coaches but they're our friends," Kitchen explained, "I'm not saying other schools aren't where we're at but I can guarantee we have more heart."