The only athletic team state championships in the entire history of North Beach High School belong to the Lady Hyaks Powerlifting Teams of 2015 and 2017. Coach Ric Dycus and the 14 young women who are going to the Washington State Powerlifting Meet on Saturday, May 5, at Northwest Christian High School in Lacey, believe they are in position to take a third state title back home.
These days, that possibility doesn’t surprise Dycus one bit. But when he and former coach and athletic director Todd Bridge started the program at NBHS in 2010, becoming a state powerlifting powerhouse was beyond everyone’s imagination, for a couple of reasons.
Mostly, it’s a David vs. Goliath thing in this sport. High schools throughout the state compete in two simple divisions, boys and girls. That makes North Beach High, with less than 200 high school students, “the only public ‘B’ school in Washington that competes with a full team in state powerlifting, against 2A, 3A and 4A schools” that are up to 10 times larger, Dycus noted.
And there’s the original purpose behind the program: a volunteer coach, Dycus explained that “Todd Bridge and I opened the weight room after school to give some of our troubled kids an avenue to release some pent-up energy and do something that could make them feel good about themselves.” At the first meet they attended, in 2011, “we had a couple kids who were mildly successful, but we were definitely the smallest fish in a very big pond,” the coach said.
“One thing that was quite evident was that we were drawing more and more kids with unstable home life and generally low self-esteem,” he explained. “Once they saw they could succeed, everything flourished!” Since 2013, the graduation rate for Hyaks powerlifters has been 100%, and all eight current seniors will graduate this year, several with honors.
“Football, basketball, track, they’re not for everybody. These kids have found a niche with powerlifting and it’s been great for them and great for the school,” Larry Moore, NBHS athletic director and boys basketball coach, said.
In powerlifting, athletes compete at various weight classes in squat, bench press and dead lift with the total of their best lifts in all three categories determining the winners. This year, 43 students made up the Hyaks teams, the biggest group ever.
The boys team will send six to state, and Dycus anticipates another top-5 finish from the team that was third last year. He said a strong contender for an individual championship is sophomore Byron Britt, who lifts in the 165 lb. weight class.
“I had a lot of trouble in junior high,” Britt related, and getting involved in powerlifting “helped me pull everything together…. I like setting goals and achieving them; I like the adrenaline rush; I like the general feeling of being strong!” He added, “I think I can sort of come out of nowhere and surprise everyone.”
Another standout for the Hyaks men is junior Patrick Day-Heyd, ranked second at 132 lbs.
The Lady Hyaks, with their current top ranking in the state, have been dominant in the sport this year. Senior Natasha Fruh is ranked #1 in the unlimited class and has the highest women’s lift total in the state this year at 785 lbs., a number she firmly expects to surpass in Lacey.
Dycus is particularly high on junior phenomenon Skylar Duncan. After noticing her jumping ability as a cheerleader, he talked her into trying powerlifting.
“Skylar had never even lifted until a couple months ago. She’s been ‘Lifter of the Meet’ the last two meets” at Okanogan and Shelton. Competing at a mere 95 lbs., she has a 210 lb. dead lift as part of a 450 lb. total that makes her the top overall lifter in the state, according to the formula that figures weight class against total pounds lifted in the three lifting categories.
“I was cheerleading and one day I went up here” to the weight room above the NBHS “House of Pain” gymnasium, she recalled. “I did a couple of benches and squats and talked to coach and decided maybe I should try it.”
“Her athleticism was very noticeable,” Dycus said, “but I had no idea she’d flourish so fast. I think she’s going to set a state record for her weight class.”
Other standouts for the Lady Hyaks include Isabelle Harnagy, ranked #2 at 198 lbs., Alexis Potter, #2 181 lbs., and another wunderkind, the first ever eighth grader from any team to go to the state meet, Maggie McPhereson, who is ranked second behind Fruh in the unlimited class.