Mark Elder and his son, Blake, started working out with weights several years ago so Blake could train for high school sports.
    Blake began by using plastic weights, then moved on to working out at the Dodge City Fire Station, where his father works. They didn't know of any powerlifting contests at first, but Blake started competing in high school meets when he was a sophomore.
    Blake later started competing in open powerlifting contests, with his father coaching him and providing moral support.
    Their years of working together paid off in April, when Blake took second place in his weight class at the 2008 Collegiate Nationals powerlifting meet in Denver.
    Mark Elder said he was pleased and proud of his son's success.
    "As a coach, first of all, you always want to see anybody you're helping coach make progress," he said in a May 20 interview. "That makes you feel like you're doing your job as coach, so that's always foremost. But as a father, I've been tremendously proud because of the work ethic that he's put into it."
    Blake, 23, was among approximately 400 weightlifters who competed in the Denver contest, which was sanctioned by USA Powerlifting. He faced off against 22 men in the 105-kilo (220-pound) weight class in three events: squat, bench press and deadlift.
    Blake lifted 725 kilos altogether: 272.5 kilos in the squat competition, 182.5 in the bench press and 270 in the deadlift. In other words, he lifted 600 pounds in the squat, 402 in the bench press and 595 for the deadlift for a total of 1,598.
    He set records in the Kansas junior division of the USAPL with all three lifts and earned All-American honors for his performance.
    Blake said he came into the meet ranked eighth in his class and lifted his way into second place, missing first place by only 2.5 kilos — 5 pounds.
    "I was really happy with the way it went, as far as going out there and doing some things I wanted to do," he said.
    A Dodge City native, Blake currently lives in Lawrence and studies fire science at Johnson County Community College. He said he usually hits the gym four times a week for workouts lasting one and a half to two hours apiece.
    He said he could not have reached his goals without his mother's support and his father's coaching.
    Blake's father, Mark, said he was happy with his son's performance and glad that he had a chance to compete on a national level.
    "You finally get to see that the work did pay off," Mark said. "You hate to coach a kid and it just doesn't seem like they ever get any better, and Blake just continues to work and continues to put up bigger numbers at every meet."
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