Elijah Miller finds his strength in powerlifting


WAYNESBORO – Elijah Miller started lifting weights in 2022 to prepare for the wrestling open gym at Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

The rest, they say, is history.

The 15-year-old who began competing for the United States Powerlifting Association, has earned seven state records and one national record.

Funny how great things start small. Miller, the son of Joseph and Mercedes Miller of Rouzerville, decided he didn’t want to wrestle. Instead, he played basketball as a seventh grader. But the initial interest in weightlifting became more acute. So, he obtained membership to the Waynesboro Area YMCA and began a journey that has taken him to championship heights in the sport of powerlifting.

“I wanted to keep lifting to get big and strong,” Miller said. “I eventually got a membership at the local YMCA and lifted a few times a week. I was inconsistent, but I quickly fell in love with it. I met some ex-powerlifters who introduced me to the sport. I started to learn more about the sport and researched it. I wanted to do it.

Miller watched powerlifters squat 700 pounds and wanted to be a part of the sport.

“I eventually decided to bulk up so I could get strong. I weighed roughly 125 pounds when I started,” Miller said. “I signed up for my first competition in January 2023. I was scared at first, but people would tell me how much potential they saw in me with my strength. So, it convinced me to compete.”

Miller’s first competition was in the winter, the Hershey Classic in Hershey. He competed in the Juniors 13-15 division. Miller said that in the month leading up to the event he was closing in on the state records for the squat, deadlift, and total, which is the combined totals of squat, bench, and deadlift. The records were in the 67.5 kg weight class (around 148 pounds).

“The problem was a week out from the competition I was 12 pounds overweight,” Miller explained. “I wouldn’t beat any records in the next weight class. I decided to do an insane water cut with little to no food. The amount of stress basketball and school had on me was enough. But now I had to lose 12 pounds in six days.

“I was tired; I felt horrible and had no motivation. Weigh-ins came around the day before the competition. I managed to weigh in perfectly at 144.8 pounds. It was a big relief to know I got into the weight class I wanted.”

All that was left – for the moment he was waiting for and working for – was to perform the best he could.

And he did.

“The competition day was long,” he said. “I did amazing though. All of the training paid off, and I managed to squat a state record of 402.3 pounds. I benched 209.2 pounds, and I deadlifted 485 pounds for another state record. I was so happy.”

Miller said he learned later that his total wasn’t only a state record but also a national record. The outcome of the long day of competition motivated Miller even more, so he signed up for the North American Championship in Niagara Falls in the fall of 2023.

Just when Miller was ready for the next step in his quest for more success, he suffered an injury on the basketball court that sidelined him. He fell and sprained his ankle, which tore loose a ligament and caused his bones to shift.

“This was a huge setback for me,” Miller said. “It put me in a boot for about two months. I felt horrible. I couldn’t do anything that I loved anymore. I lost all motivation and questioned if I’d be healthy enough when October rolled around for the North American Championship.

“It was horrible for my mental health, and I didn’t know what to do anymore. I decided to put in some work and listened to my doctors for what I needed to do to get back. Soon enough, by the spring and early summer, I was back. Squat was back up in the 400s and deadlift was back. I could only train my upper body for two months, so my bench had gone up quite a bit.”

As summer came and went, Miller became aware that his injury – while dealing a blow to his body and mind – also made him stronger.

“I was better, mentally and physically. I was ready. My prep for the competition was amazing. My best friend (Gibbs Downin) was with me, keeping me in check and helping me all the way. I was so grateful to him. He helped me in the gym that I bought for my house. I am also grateful for my parents who helped pay for it. They have been there for me through everything and always have been my number one fans. I could never repay them for everything they’ve done for me.

“I had to make them proud. And that I did.”

In late October, Miller made the pilgrimage to Niagara Falls, New York.

Miller squatted 446 pounds, benched 242 pounds, and deadlifted 551 pounds in the 165-pound weight class. He placed second in the Juniors 15-19 division.

“I felt on top of the world, which was great at first,” Miller said. “But soon enough it would bite me back. The following few months were horrible. I wasn’t training, didn’t have any motivation, and felt horrible. It’s like I was on top of the world and now where do I go? I had no goals. My strength was drained.

“My best friend was there for me, and he forced me to go to the gym. He talked to me and convinced me to take a leave from the sport for a little bit. I had baseball coming up in the spring, so it was a perfect opportunity to take a break. I listened to him, and I decided to set a new goal for the future before I took a break. I now have the World Championship in November in Las Vegas, Nevada.”

For now, Miller said he is excited to be playing baseball for the Waynesboro Indians junior varsity team. He is also relieved to be pressing the pause button from powerlifting.

“And I am excited to get back to work this summer and rock it at worlds,” he said. “I want to make my parents, my brother (Tristan), my friends, my teachers, my coaches, and all of Waynesboro proud.”

Elijah Miller’s state records:

67.5 kg (148 pounds)

SQUAT (Jan. 14, 2023) – 182.50 kgs (402.30 lbs.)

DEADLIFT (Jan. 14, 2023) – 220.00 kgs (485.00 lbs.)

TOTAL (Jan. 14, 2023) – 497.50 kgs (1096.8 lbs.)

75kg (165.2 pounds)

SQUAT (Oct. 26, 2023) – 202.509 kgs (446.40 lbs.)

BENCH (Oct. 26, 2023) – 110.00 kgs (242.50 lbs.)

DEADLIFT (Oct. 26, 2023) – 250.00 kgs (551.20 lbs.)

TOTAL (Oct. 26, 2023) – 562.50 kgs (1240 lbs.)

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