FORT HOOD, Texas (March 5, 2009) -- Lady powerlifters from Fort Hood, Texas, pumped iron to distinguish themselves in a recent tournament.

The Phantom Warriors Women's Powerlifting Team took some Texas style muscle with a punch of Army can do to Miami Feb. 13-15 where they placed second in team standing out of 22 teams competing at the 27th annual USA Powerlifting Women's National Powerlifting Championships.

The competition was close.

"They lost by only three points to Team Washington," Johnny Graham said, the team's head coach and trainer. "And the Washington team had 10 lifters to our seven."

Graham said all the ladies on the team qualified to represent the USA in international competition for

2009 - something Graham said no other team in USA Powerlifting has done in the last 12 years.

Going into competition the team had some factors stacked against it, Graham said. After arriving in Miami several of the ladies were still working to lose a few pounds to get into their scheduled weight class. But all made it on day one with pounds to spare.

Toni Kemper, 44, was nursing lower back pain and nearly pulled out of competition, he said. But the coaches and team circled the wagons.

After a pep talk they convinced Kemper to start with lighter weights on the first of three attempts in each category - the squat, the bench press and the dead lift. Graham said after the first attempt the pain disappeared. She increased weights on her second and third attempts, running away with the first-place title 270 pounds ahead of the second-place contestant, Graham said.

Malinda Baum, 46, who holds both national and world championships, is a cancer survivor who had surgery Dec. 24 and started chemotherapy Feb. 24. But the fighter in Baum saw her back in the gym training three weeks after surgery, said Graham.

"It was uncertain if she was going to make it to Miami," Graham said. "But she did. After she came off the platform from making a 385-pound squat on the third attempt she said, 'you didn't think I would be here today, did you''"

Graham said the women pushed their limits to turn things around for the team. Debra Jackson, 54, beat the defending champion with an identical score on her body weight - one hundredth of a kilogram lighter than her competition - to capture a gold medal.

Lanette Lopez, 50, who ranked fourth in preliminary nominations, came back to make all three dead lifts to put her in second place for the Master 132 class.

Kathy Singletary, 31, competing against five world champions, missed her first squat by not going deep enough but made the next two and reached her personal best for a bench press of 165 pounds and netted a bronze medal with a 314-pound dead lift.

Donna Bryant, 49, secured a World Team spot with her 385-pound dead lift but missed a personal best on the bench lift by just 11 pounds.

Daliann James-Swanger, 21, dazzled the tournament for the Junior Class with scores that won her top spots on two USA World Teams. She is invited to represent the USA in the Junior World Championship in Brazil and the Open World in India. She is the youngest contestant invited to compete in the Arnold Schwartznegger Pro Dead Lift event scheduled March 5-8. She won the Outstanding Lifter award the second straight year.

Graham said some on his team are Army Family members. Others are Soldiers.

"When they apply to join the team I send a letter to their commander outlining the requirements and asking if they will sign off," Graham said.

Graham said all training is during off-duty hours. But their commands authorize TDY orders from III Corps for them to attend tournaments.

Their participation is a credit to the Army and reflects favorably on Fort Hood, Graham said.

Page last updated Thu March 5th, 2009 at 17:51