By Pete Banda
Over the past decade or so, the San Benito athletic program has become one of the most well-rounded and consistent in all of South Texas. While the Greyhounds have excelled in major sports like football, softball, and track and field, one of their most dominant athletes has flown mostly under the radar for the first three years of her Varsity career.
You’d never guess it by her infectious smile or calm demeanor, but Leann Ramirez is one of the baddest and most athletic girls in all of San Benito – never mind the fact that she’s only 16-years-old. The junior powerlifter recently shattered the Regional record for most total weight lifted by compiling a whopping 1,080 pounds combined in the squat, bench press and deadlift. She will enter the State tournament as the number one ranked lifter in the State of Texas in her weight class.
“Ever since I was a little girl, people would tell me how strong I was and I think I’ve just always a little more strength than girls my age,” said Ramirez. “I didn’t really start lifting weights until I was in middle school and it really became a passion of mine in ninth grade.”
Up until that point, Ramirez focused the majority of her attention on softball and cheerleading. In fact, Ramirez took great pride in telling her family and friends that she would one day be the next great Lady ’Hound. Once powerlifting came into the picture, however, Ramirez tapped into a talent that would make her unstoppable.
“I stopped playing softball my freshman year because I was just too busy with cheer and powerlifting,” Ramirez said. “I have high standards and high expectations for everything I do and I wanted to be able to give my best effort to the cheer team and powerlifting team.”
In her first Varsity competition as a freshman, Ramirez took home a second place medal, something she was not too pleased with. Throughout the course of the year, however, the young lifter would prove she belonged with the best of them. After becoming one of the youngest female athletes to qualify for the state meet, Ramirez racked up enough weight to finish fourth place in the entire state.
It’s worth noting that in addition to her accomplishments in powerlifting, Ramirez serves as the Captain of the SBHS Cheer team and is a member of Mu Alpha Theta (National Math Honor Society), Rho Kappa (Social Studies Honor Society), and the National Honor Society. She I currently ranked among the top 20 students in her class as well.
As a sophomore, Ramirez kicked her workout into high gear and steamed through the Regional competition to qualify for State for the second consecutive year. Unfortunately, the humble overachiever fell just short of her ultimate goal as she came home with the silver medal. Despite the vast improvement from fourth to second in state, Ramirez came out of the tournament even more determined.
“At this point, anything less than winning state would be considered a failure for me,” said Ramirez, who is just a few pounds away from braking state records in all three lifts. “Looking back at where I was when I was a freshman and comparing it to where I am now, it’s almost unbelievable the progress I’ve made. I’m ready to finally take home that gold medal this year.”
The state record for all three lifts – bench press, squat, and deadlift – are all within reach for Ramirez.
For squat, the state record stands at 450 lbs. while Ramirez breezed through her lift of 435 at the regional competition. The Deadlift record is also within reach as the 420 pounds Ramirez put up is just 20 pounds off the state record. Interestingly enough, the most combined weight lifted at the state meet is 1,065 – Ramirez totaled out at 1,080 in the Regional competition.
For the record, Ramirez fully understands the legacy she has established.
“I got fourth my freshman year, second place my sophomore year and now I fully expect to win state this year,” said Ramirez. “I’m well aware of what I can do and I want to shatter all these records again next year.”
The State meet will be held on March 18 in Waco, Texas. Ramirez is the only San Benito athlete to qualify for the state powerlifting meet for three consecutive years before her senior season.