Before Cal State Bakersfield softball senior utility player Chris Hipa even joined the team, head coach Crissy Buck-Ziegler knew the then-high school player could turn out to be one of the strongest athletes the program had ever seen.
But it was still somewhat of a surprise when Hipa wanted to enter into a world weightlifting competition in Las Vegas in November 2018 during the fall of her senior year.
Hipa got the OK from her coach and broke the junior division world record in the 198-pound weight class with a deadlift of 391.3 pounds at the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters World Bench Press and Deadlift Championships.
Though she started the competitive weightlifting on a whim, it improved her performance as a softball player and Hipa could continue with it in the future. On the field, she’s known as a power hitter for the Roadrunners and leads the team with five home runs this season.
“I know she’s competitive and I know she likes to see how far she can go with something so that’s where it doesn’t surprise me about Chris,” Buck-Ziegler said. “But so surprised at how well she did at such large of a level and did it without even blinking an eye.”
Hipa was bigger and stronger than most of her peers growing up. She first lifted weights in eighth grade but “really didn’t push a lot of weight” until coming to CSUB, Hipa said.
She found out about the athletic department’s “Weight Room Warrior Award” given at the end of each academic year. Hipa decided she wanted to win it.
Though she was nominated for the award after her junior season, the volleyball team’s Sidney Wicks won instead.
“She’s the strongest female athlete we have on campus by far,” Buck-Ziegler said of Hipa. “... (Not winning the award) really inspired and instilled something in her.”
When Hipa went home to Aiea, Hawaii, for the summer, the trainer she usually worked out with had gotten back into competitive lifting. Because he was training with a team, he couldn’t work with Hipa as usual. He invited her to come along and workout with the weightlifting team.
Hipa enjoyed how motivational the members of the team were. They asked if she wanted to compete with them. Why not, she thought.
So Hipa entered her first weightlifting competition in Hawaii in July. She set a personal best, deadlifting 402.3 pounds.
Hipa wanted to step up the competition and decided to go to the world event in Las Vegas. Buck-Ziegler had Hipa clear everything with Brendon Ziegler, the coach’s husband and CSUB’s director of sport performance. Hipa’s parents came to Las Vegas to watch and she got texts of support from teammates and coaches who had watched live or seen a video posted online.
The work she had put in weightlifting all offseason paid dividends for softball. Her legs were stronger. For the first time as a senior, she passed the team’s timed testing runs prior to the year.
“I ran them no problem and I was like, ‘Wow, my legs are really in shape and it really is a mindset because I can do it now and I know I can,’ ” Hipa said.
And as she goes through a bit of a slump through the season, she is thinking back to the work she put in during the summer. At one of the competitions, the last three of her four lifts were all above what she thought her maximum was.
She can do and overcome more than she thinks, Hipa noted of the what she took away from the experience.
When Hipa graduates from CSUB in May and her Roadrunners’ softball career comes to an end, she wants to continue with different types of competitive lifting events. She is interested in Olympic lifting, crossfit and other events.
“Just super athletic, technical things in lifting because they all require you to do different movements and your body structure to be a little bit different to accommodate those movements,” Hipa said. “I find pushing my body to the limit to see what I can do is really cool.”