Jillian Whiting, an eighth-grader at Illahee Middle School, poses at Temple Fitness where she works out three mornings a week before school. The 14-year-old recently set a state powerlifting record in the deadlift. Heidi Sanders, the Mirror

Jillian Whiting, an eighth-grader at Illahee Middle School, poses at Temple Fitness where she works out three mornings a week before school. The 14-year-old recently set a state powerlifting record in the deadlift. Heidi Sanders, the Mirror

Illahee eighth-grader breaks state powerlifting record

Jillian Whiting set top mark in deadlift in first competition less than a year after beginning training.

It’s safe to say eighth-grader Jillian Whiting does more before school than most of her classmates.

The Illahee Middle School student is at Temple Fitness in Federal Way at 5:30 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, spending an hour working out before getting ready for school.

“There’s some days (she doesn’t want to go to the gym), but then I get here and it goes away. I just want to be here,” Whiting said.

The 14-year-old’s hard work and dedication are paying off.

At Whiting’s first powerlifting competition – the 2018 USA Powerlifting Rookie Competition at Tacoma Strength in January – she set a state record in the deadlift for the Teen 1 division for 14- and 15-year-old girls with a 259-pound lift.

Her performance, which also included a 110-pound bench press and a 181.9-pound back squat, qualified her for the 2018 USA Powerlifting National in Spokane in October.

“It was really fun,” Whiting said of her first competition. “It was overwhelming at first. After the first few lifts, I kind of got into it.”

Although Whiting was the only one competing in her division, she said it was still a good experience.

She said she is looking forward to her next competition in the summer and nationals in the fall where there will be more competitors.

“I have an idea where I am at with other kids, but it will be nice to actually be with other people my age,” she said, adding that she hopes to continue to set personal records.

Whiting, who also plays soccer for Washington Premier Football Club, began powerlifting last summer.

“My mom started coming to the gym, and she was just having a lot of fun, so I wanted to come. …” Whiting said. “They saw I was pretty strong, so they were like ‘why don’t you try this.’ So I tried it and I was just really good at it.”

The challenge of powerlifting appeals to Whiting.

“I love to be challenged, and it is hard. It’s just fun,” she said.

Mariko Hamashima, gym manager and trainer for Temple Fitness, said she was impressed with Whiting from Day One.

“Her movement quality is amazing,” she said. “I think that is partially from her having experience in other sports and just being active her whole life. She has a really good foundational set of movements, which made it really easy to train her to use the right form and technique. She has really good self-awareness. She is a really good listener. When we talk her through things she can work on, she absorbs it like a sponge, so that make our job really easy.”

Dan Esbenshade, who owns Temple Fitness with his wife Brynn, said Whiting’s work ethic stands out to him.

“If everybody worked as hard as Jillian did, we would be a lot further along in this country in general,” he said. “Her work ethic is absolutely insane. The fact that she played multiple sports, she goes to school full time, she comes into zero-hour for lifting, I wish everybody had that work ethic, not just for weightlifting but for everything. That’s really hard to find especially with teenagers.”

Esbenshade said he is excited to see Whiting’s potential.

“She could hold records and potentially be the best in Washington, if not the country in five or six years, but that would depend on her and her aspirations and goals,” he said.


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Eighth-grader Jillian Whiting competes in the 2018 USA Powerlifting Rookie Competition at Tacoma Strength in January. She set a state record in the deadlift for the Teen 1 division for 14- and 15-year-old girls with a 259-pound lift. Courtesy Traci Whiting

Eighth-grader Jillian Whiting competes in the 2018 USA Powerlifting Rookie Competition at Tacoma Strength in January. She set a state record in the deadlift for the Teen 1 division for 14- and 15-year-old girls with a 259-pound lift. Courtesy Traci Whiting

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