5’2″ HSU student breaks dual weightlifting records at 2016 Collegiate Nationals

There aren’t too many women with athletic ambitions in the field of football or powerlifting. These are generally sports that attract testosterone-fueled guys seeking fame on the field or muscular supremacy on the beach. Then again, there aren’t too many women like Diana Hernandez-Avalos, the HSU student who shocked the world when she broke two weightlifting records at the 2016 USA Powerlifting Collegiate Nationals in April.

A native of Los Angeles, California, Diana was always an athletic child, but she had no idea what she was capable of until she started weightlifting at Humboldt State University. With very little experience, and no sponsors to help fund a cross country trip, this 5’2″, 150lb powerhouse broke the collegiate weightlifting record in her weight class for squat lifting 396.8lbs, as well as the bench record at 198.4lbs.

Both weightlifting records were previously held by Dakota Young, who squatted 347.2lbs and benched 155.4lbs in March of 2015. Hernandez-Avalos blasted through both records by nearly 50lbs each.

From the Football Field to the Weight Room

Diana Hernandez-Avalos breaks collegiate weightlifting record with 396lb squat

Diana Hernandez-Avalos squats 396lbs to break collegiate weightlifting record, photo Alan Humes

Hernandez-Avalos’ athletic talents began with playing football at a young age. She joined the football team at Birmingham High School, and said the boys accepted her because she earned their respect by excelling on the field, despite being 100 pounds lighter than most of her male teammates.

After graduating, she enrolled at HSU in 2012, where she joined the rowing team and took up weightlifting to further that pursuit. Two years later, while taking a weightlifting certification course, Diana caught the attention of Olympic trainers, who invited her to visit the Team USA training center.

“That’s when I realized this is what I want to do,” she said in an interview with HSU’s newspaper, The Lumberjack. She immediately began training for competition in powerlifting.

In her very first competition, Hernandez-Avalos broke a state weightlifting record, and that’s when “It really hit me that I could go far in this,” she said. “I thought, ‘I have more in the tank’.”

Amazingly, Diana trained for only one year before breaking the squat and bench weightlifting records at the USA Powerlifting Collegiate Nationals last month in Providence, Rhode Island. She was the only female contender from any California State University to attend, and unlike most of the athletes, had no sponsor to back her.

Hernandez-Avalos admitted that being up against powerlifters from big-name schools with deep-pocketed sponsors was a bit intimidating. “Then there’s little goofball me in my Rainbow sandals, whatever shorts I threw on, and an old school Lumberjack Iron shirt,” she quipped. But overall, she said she was “stoked” and “so excited to be there.”

Her family and friends all chipped in to help pay for her cross-country trip to Providence, and she says her parents are her biggest supporters. Next on the list is Drew Patterson, HSU’s head coach of the Lumberjack Iron weightlifting team.

“We have one show stopper in the HSU weight room, and it’s not the strongest guy on the football team, it’s five-foot-two, 150 pound Diana,” Peterson extolled the talents of his star athlete. “When she works out, the whole facility stops to watch.”

The Lumberjack described her 396lb squat weightlifting record as being “equivalent to the weight of a female grizzly bear.” It’s also just 6lb shy of beating the world record.

Diana Hernandez-Avalos is currently training for her next Nationals competition in Atlanta, coming up in October.

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