Student Features

Nation’s Top Teen Powerlifter Earns University Scholarship

Jan 14, 2022

Two years ago, when PA Cyber senior Sophia Gentile won her first powerlifting meet, she never expected it would lead to her breaking two world records. The Pittsburgh resident found an ideal channel for her passion for strength training in powerlifting. She is excited to join a university varsity team in the fall. 

At the USA Powerlifting Federation’s Teen and National High School Championships last May, more than 500 teens competed over four days. That’s where Sophia lifted an overall 766.1 lbs. for squat, bench, and deadlift combined—placing first in her age and weight class (varsity and under 57 kg.) in the high school national championship. She squatted 336.2 pounds, breaking both state and national records for her class. Sophia says, “I got a sign that it was a good squat, and then I saw my mom jumping up and down and screaming.” 

Sophia Gentile performs the deadlift at the U.S. Powerlifting Association National Championships in September 2020 in Columbus, Ohio.

In only two years of competition, she has achieved 12 state, five national, and two world records in the U.S. Powerlifting Association Federation. Her records are from drug-tested meets in the female raw category.

Her powerlifting journey began in early 2020 when a family member who owned a gym was planning to host a meet. Sophia decided to sign up because she gained motivation through strength training and CrossFit. While training for the powerlifting meet, she discovered that she enjoyed the sport and building her muscles. To her surprise, she won! She set national records for squat (266.8 lbs.) and bench (148.8 lbs.) in the 13–15 age and under 56 kg. weight class. Today she says she never imagined that initial experience would have propelled her toward breaking two world records (one in squat and the other in bench). 

What motivates her? “I do it for me, to be stronger,” says Sophia. “I motivate myself. It’s bettering me. It prepares me for later in life.” 

Most recently, in November, she earned second-best overall female lifter at the Drug Tested Rustbelt Rumble in Ohio. This spring she plans to compete at nationals where she aims to break a new world record or beat one that she has already set. 

Sophia’s hard work and dedication is not only apparent in her athletics, but she maintains strong grades as well. She attends Beattie Tech for a couple of hours every weekday morning for sports medicine, which counts toward her electives at PA Cyber. (These classes are part of an IEP-driven and customized opportunity intended to enhance Sophia’s transition from K-12 to university education.) At 11 a.m. she then begins her virtual classes with PA Cyber. 

Sophia enrolled at PA Cyber during ninth grade because she didn’t really like her local brick-and-mortar school. Her family heard about PA Cyber and decided to give it a try. “I’ve done it ever since, and I love it,” she says. “It’s a good school. The teachers are always there if you need help. I like my psychology class—it’s really cool. I really like my math teachers [Jamie Seelman and Amy Checkan].” 

“PA Cyber allows a lot of flexibility with lifting and other things that I want to do,” says Sophia. She trains at a powerlifting gym three times per week. She also worked as a party host at a trampoline park. Sophia is thankful to spend time with family and friends who support her and are proud of her.

Another bonus: “I get to do school in my sweatpants. I don’t have figure out my outfit before going to school,” she smiles. 

Sophia’s zeal for powerlifting extends into her future goals. She received an athletic scholarship from Ottawa University in Kansas, where she will study exercise science and join the varsity powerlifting team in the fall.

“Not a lot of people do powerlifting. It’s something I’m passionate about and good at. I light up when I do it and when I’m talking about it,” she says.

Media Contact

Jennie Harris / jennie.harris@pacyber.org

About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instruction methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and does not charge tuition to students or families.