As a high school freshman, Laisha Gardner felt a little shiftless.
The Laredo native joined the track team as a thrower after a stint on the basketball team hadn't worked out, and though she enjoyed it, track and field didn't quite feel like the perfect fit.
And then one day during practice, her coach told her to go lift weights in the gym.
"I saw the powerlifters, and I was like, 'OK, that looks really cool,'" says Gardner, a sophomore physics major. 'I talked to the coach, and he was like, 'Yeah, anybody can join.' So I did."
She earned three state championships in high school, and after graduation, began competing in USA Powerlifting competitions.
Gardner, an Emerald Eagle Scholar and Bruceteria employee who is part of UNT's Powerlifting Club, is ranked No. 2 nationally in her raw collegiate division weight class. She trains two to three hours per day in preparation for the USAPL Collegiate Nationals.
While winning is always a treat, she says lifting has given her a bigger gift: confidence.
"I fell in love with the sport after I saw the way it changed me physically, how much healthier it made me feel," says Gardner, who is coached by Jordan Glenn. "I walked a little bit taller after I started lifting. It's definitely fun and empowering."