State Champion: VAHS Cuthbertson breaks records on route to gold
At the close of the state powerlifting meet, Austin Cuthbertson stood over the competition as the state champion. Not only did he leave with a gold medal draped around his neck, but the VAHS senior left his name in the record books by breaking two records.
Austin has competed in the powerlifting all four years of high school and qualified for regionals in each of his seasons. He also qualified for the state meet three times. But the state powerlifting meet was one of the first casualties of the pandemic closings his junior year. He was entering as the regional champion and had an excellent chance to win state as a junior. When the pandemic first shut down school, Austin borrowed equipment to keep working at home if there was a chance to compete.
The disappointment of the missed opportunity only motivated him to work hard for his one chance and pray that he would get the chance to compete. Coach Jeff Middleton was impressed by Austin and his personal plan, "Austin had written down what his progression & expectations were for each Meet from the 1st Meet to the State Meet. He had a plan and worked very hard to achieve it." Athletic Director Mikeal Miller said of how Cuthbertson approached the missed opportunity, “he made a decision to work even harder and left no question in my mind that he would be a state champion this year.”
His mother, Melissa, saw the dedication to his plan closeup, "he was extremely dedicated to watching his weight carefully, eating healthy, and working hard in workouts. He also worked hard on his goals and plans for each Meet. Austin quietly pursued his dream of winning state, one Meet, one workout, one lift at a time."
Powerlifting is the combination of three events: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. The tense moment at the state meet came when Austin "missed" one of his lifts on the bench press. The judges did not count his lift at 215 pounds, and on his next lift, he went ahead for a considerable jump to 230 pounds. The lights were green on this lift, and Austin was ready for the final event, the deadlift.
Austin approached the final event by reaching for a personal record, which was also a state record. Austin’s father Mark remarked when seeing the lift he was attempting, “The tension grew as Austin posted what his final attempt would be, which was considerably more than his regional lift. The crowd (his family) went crazy when he got a clean lift.” The lift would be ten pounds more than he had ever lifted, but when he saw the three green lights after the attempt, he knew he had accomplished what he set out to achieve. He would be crowned the State Champion. He had lifted in the three events 1050 lbs, which for the 114lb weight class was ten pounds over the previous record. He also broke the state record in the squat by 20lbs by lifting 445lbs.
This fall, Austin stood in front of over one hundred high school students at the VAHS Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where he shared his personal testimony. Austin spoke about the personal struggles of growing up with dwarfism and how kids used their words to make fun of him. He said that this made him ask God "why he made him this way." He then spoke with great confidence that when "he found that God made him in his image, and that God doesn't make mistakes in his creations, that he had a reason for everything, including his own dwarfism." Austin's faith is a place that he has found strength and encouragement, and purpose. He plans to attend Word of Life in New York and major in Bible.
Austin spoke of a couple of teachers that have influenced his life. One being Coach Jimmy Haynes, whose wisdom was influential in his decision-making of the next steps in life. He also spoke of the encouragement of Coach Jacey Guerrero to "serve others before himself." He was thankful for the support of his friends, especially Jacob Gallardo and Brett Long. But the most influential persons in his life are his parents, Mark and Melissa Cuthbertson. He said that "God created me for a purpose, and I need to find that purpose and go achieve it. "
When Coach Bubba Sedlacek was asked what impressed him the most of his State Champion, he responded with "How good of a kid he is." To those who know Austin, they know that his real strength is in character and faith, which says a lot for a champion strong man. Sedlacek continued, "He is soft-spoken, but don't let that fool you. He is always eager to do anything to help in any manner possible. No doubt in my mind that Austin will be highly successful in life."
Cuthbertson will graduate have written his name in the record books, with the highest achievement possible, and at the same time leaving a legacy that Coach Mikeal Miller spoke of, “In my humble opinion Austin is the role model that more kids should strive to be like. The kind of role model that would prepare any person for the real world. Someone who has their priorities set and lives them out daily. Great Faith, loves and serves others selflessly, incredible work ethic.”