There are a lot of moving pieces in the life of Pius XI High School senior Siree Cofta, but the biggest are the iron plates she lifts when she is working out.

On Jan. 11, Cofta qualified for the Wisconsin High School Powerlifting Association state meet by lifting 860 pounds in three lifts (squat – 320; bench – 160; deadlift – 380) at a regional meet in Cudahy. The state meet is scheduled for March 7-8 at Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Appleton. Her marks at the regional have her sitting first in the state in her weight class by a staggering 125 pounds.

Pius XI High School senior Siree Cofta will participate in the Wisconsin High School Powerlifting Association state championship March 7-8 at Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Appleton. (Photo by Larry Hanson)

“It’s very cool,” said Matt Ingish, the first-year powerlifting coach at Pius. “Looking at the totals of all the girls who’ve qualified for state, she’s tied for the second-highest total in the state.”

Her typical day begins at 4 a.m. for her 5 a.m. workout at the Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay. Then it is off to school and interning at the North Shore Fire Department. She has also served on the stage crew for school theatrical productions and been part of study groups and mission trips.

Her time at Pius has been a period of increased self-confidence and self-esteem for Cofta, who hopes to follow in her father’s footsteps as a firefighter.

“I remember when I first started high school, I didn’t care to talk to anyone or do anything extra, or push myself,” Cofta said. “Some people grow up as athletes or know what they want to do. I didn’t know. Just experiencing those things, I feel like a completely different person, looking back on who I was. I would say it’s definitely been a growing experience.”

Ingish said he can see the growth in Cofta even since the beginning of this school year.

“From the beginning of this school year to now, talking to her about starting the powerlifting team here, she’s stepped up with a lot of new kids coming in,” Cofta said. “(Her confidence) has grown from the beginning of the year.”

Cofta said that when she realized all she had to do to become a firefighter was to push herself and try her best, it was like a light bulb came on for her.

“I’ve always known what it is and I’ve always been interested,” Cofta said. “I remember playing hide-and-seek in the truck bay. I didn’t think about a career until high school. I just assumed I couldn’t be a firefighter. For some reason, (I was thinking) that takes too much. That takes everything you don’t have, strength, mentally and physically, so I just was looking at other things.”

It all came back to firefighting after a talk with her family.

“I remember saying out loud to my family, ‘I’d love to be a firefighter; I just know I never could,’” she said. “My dad explained what you have to be able to do and where you start from.”

Where she is starting from with, five weeks to go until state, is she is close to setting state records in all of her lifts.

The records she will shoot for include 365 for the squat, 175 for the bench and 395 for the deadlift.

“I enjoy it; it’s a lot of fun,” Cofta said. “I set two new maxes (at the regional). Now my goal is to set a new max at state. I know it’s not gonna matter in a year, five years, 10 years, but right now, it’s a lot of fun and a real challenge, so I’m giving it everything I have.”

“It’s that goal that’s not really out of reach but you’ve really got to push for it,” Ingish said. “That’s what we set, knowing she was going to state. She’s starting to have that moment where, ‘Yeah, I can do that.’”