"The big thing is we just want to give the kids something to do," said Imperial Valley Football Coaches Association President Mike Swearingen.
The IVFCA sponsors the series of meets.
Swearingen, the former football coach at Imperial High, and Bishop came up with the idea for a spring powerlifting program while attending a football camp together. It's been a popular series since, although Swearingen conceded he is somewhat disappointed personally this spring.
"Do you know what's ironic?" Swearingen asked. "Imperial was the first school to host a meet and this year we're not."
Imperial was not even represented at the Southwest meet. The host Eagles, Central Union, Brawley, Calexico and Holtville were there. In past years, Yuma schools have sent teams as have Mountain Empire and Palo Verde, Swearingen said.
Three other meets are scheduled over the next two months. Central, Holtville and Brawley will all host a meet. Of the three, the most entertaining one might be Holtville's, planned for May 4.
"It's really going to be fun," Holtville coach Jim Sturgeon said. "It's going to be like a carnival atmosphere because we're holding it outside.
"It's going to be something really special," Sturgeon said, noting organizers plan to ring the area with bleachers for fans to watch the action.
There were quite a few fans at Southwest's meet and they were treated to some quality weight lifting.
The athletes competed in 16 weight divisions. They also could compete in three events — the squat, the bench press and the dead lift. All three are contested according to standardized powerlifting rules.
There also was a fourth optional event at Southwest — the power clean.
"A lot of schools don't do the power clean," Swearingen explained.
Those that do offer it in their weight programs often go by different sets of rules. Some might have lifters bump the weight bar off their thighs, while others might lift the bar from the floor in one motion.
Because those rules vary, the IVFCA opted not to include the power clean as an event that counted in a lifter's overall score or the team scores.
Instead, athletes are encouraged to participate in the other three and the combined weight of their three lifts are used to determine overall champions in each of the weight classes.
As an added incentive, this year for the first time patches for letterman's jackets are awarded to the first- and second-place finishers in each weight division at all of the meets. Certificates are awarded to the third-place finishers. There are trophies for the first- and second-place teams.
In the past more than 200 lifters have participated in the series. One of the top lifters at Southwest was Brawley's Max Reyes, who won the 180-189-pound division rather handily, amassing a combined weight total of 1,180 pounds.
Reyes, a 16-year-old junior, turned a few heads with his effort in the dead lift, where he lifted 510 pounds.
Each athlete is given three lifts in an event. Reyes easily lifted 475 pounds on his first attempt. When he tried for 500 with his second lift he dropped the weight before lifting it cleanly.
"My hands were wet," he explained. "So I just went outside and put some dirt on them."
He came back inside and easily lifted 510 pounds.
His goal was to lift 500 and he exceeded it. Reyes' goal in the bench press was 290 and he came up just short, lifting 285. He hoped to lift 400 in the squad but managed 385.
Reyes also participated in the optional power clean. His goal was 235 and he exceeded that, lifting 255.
While he enjoys all the lifting, the dead lift is his favorite because "I get to lift the most weight there."
Another Brawley lifter, freshman William Torrez, 14, had a solid outing at Southwest. He won the 120-129 pound class with a combined lift of 595 pounds.
"I set some goals before the meet," Torrez said. "And I beat all my maxes," meaning previous best marks.
His previous bests were 190 in the squad, 245 in the dead weight and 130 in the bench. At Southwest, Torrez lifted 200 in the squad, 260 in the dead weight and 135 in the bench.
Most of the lifters come into the series with set goals, Swearingen said. It's also nice to see how much they improve from the first meet to the last.