How about a lift? High school sophomore weightlifting, CrossFit guru in Kansas breaking records

PARSONS, Ks. – Parsons High School sophomore Autumn Sands remains unstoppable in weightlifting, powerlifting and CrossFit.

Sands has already won two national championships and will compete in Lima, Peru at the International Weightlifting Federation World Youth Championship on May 22.

Sands, who grew up watching her parents do CrossFit, says she never took off in team sports and has always enjoyed the independence of weightlifting, powerlifting and CrossFit sports.

At only 10 years old, the rising star emerged victorious in her first CrossFit competition, competing against athletes aged 12-14. Sands, who describes CrossFit as a blend of weightlifting, cardio and gymnastics, also has the distinction of being the Class 3A state powerlifting champion for Parsons High School in 2023.

Sands finds inspiration in Olivia Kerstetter, a slightly older Kansas CrossFit athlete.

“Just watching her evolve and follow her dreams kind of showed me that I can do the same thing too,” Sands said.

Sands competed in the 14-15 girls’ 140-pound division and won the national title at the 2023 USA Weightlifting National Championships in Colorado Springs. She completed two lifts during the event: the snatch and clean-and-jerk. She was the second-place finisher in 2022.

“It’s just kind of cool, because you work all year leading up to that competition. When you get there, the nerves are there, but you are amped up and ready to go. The environment is really cool because everyone else is also competing. The environment of the overall competition is really fun.”

When asked about her pre-match rituals, Sands mentioned her special tiger earrings that she considers her official lucky charms.

In addition to her national and state championships, Sands achieved the Kansas power clean record in the female 140-pound weight division at the 2023 state powerlifting meet as a freshman. Moreover, she broke the state back squat record during the same competition, successfully lifting 280 lbs, and bench-pressed 155 lbs. She set a state record at the competition with an overall weight of 635 pounds.

Sands acknowledges weightlifting is commonly dominated by men, but she aims to defy the norm and demonstrate that women are equally capable.

“It doesn’t matter your gender or age. You can still come and be your best self and get strong. If you’re a female wanting to get into lifting weight and you’re scared to go into the gym because men might judge you, I want to break down that stereotype. Really, it is for anybody.”

What’s in store for Sands moving forward?

In December, she traveled to Wilmington, North Carolina, to qualify for the upcoming International Weightlifting Federation Youth Championship. In May, she will represent Team USA in the Lima, Peru competition. Sands will first be participating in the March 23 powerlifting meet in Kansas.

With aspirations of qualifying for Team USA’s Olympic team someday, the sophomore also hopes to fulfill every CrossFitter’s dream by competing in the CrossFit games. Sands told The Heartlander that if you’re not nervous before competitions, it means you don’t care enough.

Now she gears up for her most significant matches to date.

“I’m lifting heavier weights and working out a little longer. I’m getting everything tuned in and ready to go.”

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