What do a piano, a bear, and a motorcycle have in common? They all weigh around 410 pounds—the amount of weight junior Jennica B. Baldridge (’21) deadlifted in April at USA Powerlifting’s Collegiate Nationals in Ohio. With that lift, Baldridge broke the American collegiate record, took home gold, and became BYU’s first-ever female national powerlifting champion.
The crowd erupted into cheers as she lifted the bar. “When I got it off the ground, like, immediately when it came up, I knew I was going to get it,” Baldridge says.
With no powerlifting club or team at BYU, Baldridge trains alone. Her high school weights-class teacher, Jeremy Hartman, helps her plan her workouts despite being 1,600 miles away in Indiana, where Baldridge grew up.
“She just had a knack for lifting weights, and I noticed that early on,” says Hartman, who recalls the teenage Baldridge asking for a late pass to her next class so she could try squatting some 45-pound weights. He said he’d write it if she squatted them more than once. She squatted them three times.
Throughout high school Baldridge competed in national events and even broke a world record her junior year for her age group, deadlifting 347.2 pounds.
Now, between full-time coursework and a part-time job at the Bean Museum—where she holds tarantulas and other creepy crawlers during live animal shows—the biology major squeezes in four to five days of training a week in BYU’s campus gym.
“When you’re a girl in the weight room and you start throwing 45s on the bar, sometimes the boys think that’s cute,” says Hartman, “until all of a sudden you start loading up three 45s.” She is used to the surprised looks.
Baldridge has her sights on the U.S. world team trials. “I just want to keep bettering myself and see how far I can push myself,” she says. “[Lifting] has become a part of me, and it keeps me sane even with all the other busy things happening in my life.”