FAIRBORN – Anya Penner carries a lot of strength, both inside and out.
Penner is a 16-year-old sophomore at Fairborn High School, who can dead lift 205 pounds and will be weightlifting at the national level in Reno, Nevada in December. What makes Penner’s story even more unique is that she performs the sport in a silent world. She was born without auditory nerves and has lived her life without the ability to hear.
“It think it’s become a passion,” she said.
Her family owns AKP Crossfit in Huber Heights. She started six years ago after she began practicing crossfit. A friend of hers began focusing on the lifting aspect of the sport. She practiced alongside him and decided to continue weightlifting. After being introduced to the sport, despite only being practiced in gymnastics but regularly participating in crossfit up to that point, it became a passion for her. She said she feels good while she lifts, and appreciates the opportunity to do so alongside her friends. She still practices crossfit three-to-four times per week and participates in competitions, which helps her in weightlifting as it supports her core and assists her in the lifting movements.
She lifts six days per week for about two hours at a time, beginning with a warm up that focuses on cardio such as rowing or running. She then begins the barbell movements, including the snatch and clean and jerk sometimes at lighter weights or broken down into smaller parts. Practicing focuses on her midline and core, but she does a variety of things. The snatch, as well as the clean and jerk, are Olympic lifts.
“I really like both of them,” Anya said. “I really like working out or lifting with all my friends and family. We have a weightlifting club here, so I lift with people I like and we have a lot of fun. We all support each other.”
Her mother, Amelia Penner, also serves as Anya’s coach. She feels that it is challenging at times, such as during competitions, because her emotions as a mother come into play – but as her coach, she must stay objective.
“It’s hard to be a mom and a coach at the same time,” Amelia said. “I’m the head coach and it’s hard, especially at competitions because you have all the mom emotions, but you have to stay objective as a coach – that’s hard sometimes, but it’s fun to see her doing something she loves.”
Coaching Anya is a slower process, as Amelia can’t coach her as she goes through the movements. In order to be instructed, Anya must stop what she’s doing to look up and focus and start again.
“Think of how often coaches ‘coach’ while an athlete is moving,” Amelia said. “Yelling cues like tighten up, higher elbows, use your legs – she can’t be coached like that. She has to finish what she is doing to ‘listen’ then start again.”
She will participate in the strongest unicorn competition in the coming weeks. After she was named one of the top three out of 48 individuals in the key low class across all ages at a meet in St. Lewis over the spring months, she got an automatic entry to the American Open, which takes place in Reno in December, and is almost the top meet in the country. She qualified for youth nationals twice, bringing home two silver medals in 2014, and two gold medals recently at the Ohio State Championship. She is expecting to be one of the youngest participants at the American Open.
“[I’m excited], but at the same time I really need to be focusing on my lifting right now,” Anya said. “I’m going to try to get stronger and get my numbers up so I will be ready for it.”
Whitney Vickers can be reached by calling her directly at 937-502-4532, or by following her on Twitter by searching for @wnvickers. For more content online, visit our website our like our Facebook page.