Fairborn girl among nation’s top weightlifters

By John Bombatch jbombatch@civitasmedia.com

July 3, 2014

FAIRBORN — Barely weighing in at 90 pounds and possibly 5-feet tall, Anya Penner is proof that a whole lot of strength can come from a very small package.

Penner, who will turn 15 later this month, finished second among women in the 44 kilogram weight class (for the 14-17 age group) June 13 at the USA Weightlifting Youth Nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The soon-to-be Fairborn High School freshman broke her own Ohio records in the Clean and Jerk lift at 51 kilograms (112.4 pounds), and also set a new Ohio mark for her weight class in total weight by also lifting 30 kg. (66.1 pounds) in the Snatch lift. for a total of 81 kg. Those numbers earned Penner the silver medal in Daytona.

Penner has been Crossfit training for several years, but just recently got into weightlifting competitions. She’s already lifting more than her own weight.

“It’s a challenge for me, similar to other sports,” Penner said using sign language interpreted by her mom. “It’s also good for me, so that in the future, if I need to lift something heavy, I know that I can do it.”

Anya is deaf. But the former gymnast doesn’t let her disability slow her down. She was at the AKP Crossfit Training Center, at 5380 Intrastate Road in Fairborn, going through her regular training regimen.

Her parents, Amelia and Kerry Penner, are the owners of the AKP Crossfit facility.

After going through a cross-training routine that saw her dead lift 168 lbs. for a warm-up, run 400-meters in the rain, then do 10 overhead lifts of roughly 40 pounds … and then do it all over again four more times … there’s good reason why Penner is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s top female weightlifters and Crossfit competitors.

She’s going after the Ohio weightlifting records in the women’s 48 kg. weight class next. Chelsea Kyle, of Columbus, currently holds the state marks in both the Snatch (40 kg.), and the Clean & Jerk (55 kg.). Kyle subsequently holds the state mark for combined weight lifted at 95 kg. All three of those marks were set in 2003.

“She would like to make a 36 kg. Snatch and a 56 kg. Clean and Jerk,” Amelia Penner said of her daughter. “She would like to qualify for the 2015 Junior Nationals.”

Penner follows the other adults’ movements during the fitness routine. When they stop, she stops. The adults were told to do three dead lifts as a warm-up. Penner did four. Hard Rock music blares from loudspeakers throughout the large Fitness Center warehouse, but Penner doesn’t hear it.

“I can feel the rhythm sometimes, but it’s not important to me,” she explained. “I don’t need to have music to motivate me. But what I’d really like is for more teen-aged girls to come out and lift with me.”

She said the Crossfit program modifies every movement or lifting skill, in order to fit that particular person’s needs.

“If you can’t lift a certain weight, we lower the weights. You don’t have to worry about doing everything correctly at first,” Penner said. “You just try and do one thing at a time, keep going. You’ll learn as you go, and you’ll slowly increase what you can do as you go.”

She broke in a great big smile when asked if anyone laughed at her when she first tried Crossfit training. “Of course not!” she said, still grinning.

“Anyone can do this. Even if you have a disability, you can do it.”

In about three weeks, Penner will compete in an invitation-only national Crossfit competition in California. Her next big weightlifting competition takes place Oct. 26 in Columbus.