High school students with studies, extracurricular activities and athletics carry a heavy load.
Now, she will take on the world.
The 17-year-old is one of eight young women representing the United States at the International Powerlifting Federation World Sub-Junior & Junior Championships from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2 in Szczyrk, Poland.
“It feels amazing to not only win the state meets but then to get to represent the United States and the little town of Cushing …” Miss Link said. “That just makes me really happy and excited. Not many kids get to have the chance to do this; and I'm super glad that I am that blessed.”
Power lifting is different from the Olympic sport of weightlifting. Power lifting is the squat, bench press and dead lift, while Olympic weightlifting is the snatch and the clean and jerk.
At 5 feet and 109 pounds, a power lifter does not come to mind when first viewing Miss Link.
“There is not anyone like Kaitlain,” said Jeremy Parker, the Cushing powerlifting coach who is also the Bearkats defensive coordinator on the football team and assistant baseball coach. “She is very dedicated. I have to tell her to get out of the weight room, go home and get some rest. I've never seen anyone — boy or girl — with more dedication.”
That drive has resulted in this small package making a big impact.
She has competed in the Texas High School Women's Powerlifting Association State Meet in Corpus Christi, including capturing the Class 1A state championship March 16 when competing in the 105-pound class. She had a total weight of 690 pounds. She won by 60 pounds in her classification but could have easily been on top in any other division with the exception of Class 4A (one lifter had 725).
It was a topper to three years of hard work after Miss Link picked up the sport at the beginning of her freshman year after a suggestion from a coach.
After winning the state meet in the spring, Miss Link had thoughts of competing at the national level.
“While at the state meet, the (University of Texas) college recruiting division had a table set up where my mom and I started talking with them about college,” she said. “Preston (Turner) told me about (USA Powerlifting Association) and the world team that he has competed on for several years. It would involve going to the USAPL state meet in Killeen. We decided to go ahead and go to the meet since it was in Texas.”
She won the state meet, and then it was off to Boise, Idaho, for the national meet.
At the national meet, she placed second in the 47kg (103 pounds) class. She had a total weight of 675.5 pounds.
“This was a low for me because the rules for USAPL lifting are stricter than the THSWPL Association,” she said. “… especially for the squat, you are required to go lower to parallel. I lifted the weight, but they didn't give me credit for the lift because the judge said I didn't lock one of my knees.
“I didn't get either of my last two lifts in squat; if they would have counted I would have received first. … Without two of my squats counting I received second.”
Miss Link found herself as the ninth person on an eight-person team. It appeared she would have to forego a trip to Europe, but things changed July 20.
“Coach Joe Lewis, the (USA) world powerlifting coach, called me to tell me one girl could not go, so I was officially on the USA World Powerlifting Team,” she said.
Now, it is off to Poland.
She will leave the United States on Aug. 25 before lifting Aug. 28.
The Nacogdoches County resident will compete at 103.5 pounds. She is ranked No. 2 in the United States at that weight and No. 5 in the world.
Parker said last week that a little more than $1,000 was raised for the trip. Another fundraiser was scheduled for tonight at LugNuts, 5287 South U.S. Highway 59 in Nacogdoches.
Her family is elated about the accomplishments.
“I'm so proud of Kaitlain,” said her mother, Ronda Hobgood. “She has worked so hard at this; and the end results can prove that. She has been very determined to make the world team, and now that she's a part of it, she really wants to come out on top.
“She's doing everything she can to make herself better and stronger … I'm just so very proud of her. God has been very good to her and me also.”
With four brothers and four sisters, there is not always harmony, but there is inspiration.
“I thank my brother Ross — even though we butt heads — for pushing me and always giving me a hard time,” Miss Link said. “He's been there beside me; and made me a stronger lifter. Also, my older sister, Krystle Hodges, she currently lives in Lubbock, but still finds a way to be at most of my meets and still supports me all that she can. She is truly amazing.”
Mrs. Hobgood said her daughter sets goals and is determined to reach them.
“She is an amazing person; and when she wants something, she goes for it and doesn't give up,” Mrs. Hobgood said. “She always has the perfect mindset to do it. I believe in her and know that she is capable of being the best. We are all hoping to bring home a world champion, but whatever the outcome is, we are still very proud of her and blessed that she is being able to represent Team USA.”
Along with working out at Cushing High School, Miss Link also trains at Iron Junkie Gym in Jacksonville under the supervision of her former power lifting coach, Chris Dolan, a former all-state punter at Jacksonville High School who played for the Chicago Bears.
After the world meet, Miss Link will return to Cushing for her senior year.
Don't think she will slow down. She is involved in cross country, track and student council; Family, Career and Community Leaders of America; Fellowship of Christian Athletes; National Honor Society and Academic Excellence.
“I am so happy to be able to represent Cushing, Texas, and my country,” said Miss Link, who is thinking of majoring in nursing in college.