Kylee Craig, 27, has three children and runs a small business.

For years, the Washington resident was like many mothers and found herself defined by that role.

Wanting to get her “mom body” back into shape, and in search of an identity outside of home, Kylee started looking up workouts on the internet and going to a Waynesburg gym, where she saw fliers for a powerlifting competition.

“I thought, ‘That would be fun,’” said Kylee, who was an athlete in high school. So Kylee got serious.

She struck up a conversation with Bob Fleming, a longtime powerlifter, who offered to work with her. In March 2017, Kylee started training. That July, she entered a powerlifting competition and set four national records. That was just the beginning.

In late June, she competed in the USPA Iron City Open Powerlifting competition, where she broke three national records by squatting 444 pounds and bench-pressing 292 pounds. She broke a state record by deadlifting 424 pounds.

Kylee is making a name for herself in the powerlifting world.

“Just because you’re a mother, doesn’t mean the person you were doesn’t exist anymore,” she said. “For five years after I had kids, all I was was a mom, and that drove me crazy a little bit. I think it’s great for (my kids) to see the discipline I have. To see me working toward a goal.”

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Training

Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

Kylee Craig of Washington works out with her trainer, Bob Fleming, at Iron Factory Gym in Meadow Lands last month.

Bob, a Marine Corps veteran, said pound for pound, Kylee is the strongest powerlifter he has ever trained. Kylee is like another daughter to him.

“She was only (bench-pressing) 185 pounds. She asked me if I would train here. I got her up to 300 pounds within a year. She’s amazing,” said Fleming, who was a professional powerlifter for 25 years. “I’ve trained a lot of people. ... Nobody was at her level. She has that hunger. She has that drive. She wants it.”

Kylee – 5-feet-1-inch tall and 159 pounds – likes pushing herself to do better.

“There’s no one to blame if I lose,” she said. “I’m competing with myself.”

Going into her last competition, Kylee knew the national record for squatting was 443 pounds. The most she had ever done was 425 pounds.

“Being within 20 pounds, it was so close to not try. I put in my attempt request and sat there thinking about how much I had trained. I got under that bar, and it felt super heavy, but not terrible,” she said. “I squatted, and started to come back up. I was shocked. ... I jumped in the air. I jumped on Bob. I was afraid I would knock him down. I cried, not believing what we had accomplished in such a short amount of time.”

Bob, who had his left leg amputated two years ago due to a chemical that got into his bloodstream while he was overseas, said he is constantly impressed by Kylee’s drive.

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Pink belt

Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

Kylee Craig, who has only been training for about two years, has set several records during competitions.

“As much as I help her, she helps me. She’s a great woman and a good mother,” he said. “She’s got a full plate, a business, three kids, a husband – she’s a busy woman. She still pushes it. She’s amazing.”

Craig said she’s lucky to have the support of her family, including husband, Bill, who is also a powerlifter.

“Sometimes we have to shuffle our schedule around a little bit, but it’s important for me to be more than someone’s caretaker,” Craig said. “I can be a wife, a mom, an athlete, a coach – everything I want to be.”

Community Editor

Natalie Reid Miller is Community Editor and has worked at the Observer-Reporter since 2013. With fellow Observer-Reporter journalists, she won the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania’s Ray Sprigle Memorial Award for the “Under the Label” social series.

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