The best in the state...and just getting started

Courtesy photos Left: A beaming Kenedee Rowen completes a deadlift as part of her title-winning performance at the 2022 state championships in Salem. Right: Kenedee poses with Mitchell Powerlifting Club coach Andrew Priebe as she announces her signing with Midland University to lift in college.

HURON — When most people think of someone who is a powerlifter, the first thought that comes to mind is certainly male-gendered.

Asking someone to describe a female lifter would likely invoke descriptions of a incredibly muscular woman who has sacrificed athleticism for bulk.

That’s not at all what you get in Kenedee Rowen.

Rowen has been athletic her entire life, but it was when working with a gymnastics club team in Mitchell, while a student at Wolsey-Wessington, that she was first introduced to powerlifting coach Andrew Priebe of the Mitchell Powerlifting Club.

“My gymnastics coach got me into it,” Rowen said. “She thought I’d be really good because I did Crossfit for a number of years.”

“When I heard that she was coming from gymnastics, I was excited,” Priebe noted. “She definitely was super strong straight out.”

Now, as Rowen heads off to Midland University this fall in Nebraska, one of the elite powerlifting colleges in the country, she owns more than a dozen records across two weight classes in just two competitive seasons as a powerlifter in the state.

In April, Midland University won the collegiate team national title in both raw and equipped lifting for the third straight season, while six individuals won titles along the way.

A few weeks prior, Kenedee had set multiple new state records with her performance at the high school national championships in Myrtle Beach, S.C. She placed third in the nation in that event, an impressive performance as she was just coming off a bout with mononucleus.

“Right before I left for nationals, I got mono,” Rowen recalled. “I just didn’t have it at nationals, but I’m slowly getting back up there!”

Her perfomance still earned her a spot on the national team that competed in the Cayman Islands in August, where she finished second.

Kenedee and her family at the recent North American Powerlifting Championships, where she finished as runner up, in the Cayman Islands. Behind Kenedee, from left, are Samara Clemente, Kyla Clemente, Rafael Clemente and Betsy Clemente.

Rowen finished her high school career with 22 records in the 60 and 67.5 kilogram (kg) weight classes in the state, with personal meet bests of 72.5 kg (approximately 160 pounds) in the bench press, 135 kg (298 lbs) in the squat, 142.5 kg (314 lbs) in deadlift, and 350 kg total (772 lbs).

Most of those personal bests were achieved in the 60 kg (132-lb) weight class before moving to the 67.5 kg (149-lb) class this spring. She’s also a two-time state champion.

Kenedee’s numbers may be impressive, but when talking to her, you get the idea that she may not realize just how overly impressive they are.

“Everyone comes up to me and just says, ‘You’re the powerlifter?’” Kenedee laughed. “I say, ‘Yep, that’s me.’ I don’t think they’re expecting me from what they’ve heard about my lifting.”

Her coach recognized just how special Kenedee was, even in a quickly-growing sport in the state.

“The powerlifting sport has grown so much, so what she has done is incredible now,” Priebe explained. “Between the two classes, we had around 500 kids who had qualified to be at the state meets this year.”

“There are so many girls who are so strong,” he continued. “Yet, you get a girl like Kenedee who comes in and blows your brain.”

Kenedee resides in Wessington, and she’s been an athlete her entire life, beginning in 4-H rodeo, and adding many other sports, including gymnastics for the club team in Mitchell while she attended Wolsey-Wessington through her junior year of high school.

“I think I gained a lot of strength from other sports,” Kenedee estimated.

She transferred to Huron for her senior year primarily for athletic opportunity.

“I feel like Huron has a lot more opportunities for classes and activities,” Rowen noted. “…and a lot more people.”

For Kenedee, cheer was another sport that she enjoyed in her final year at Huron after participating as soon as she was able growing up.

“When I was younger, my mom had me do every sport out there,” Rowen smiled. “Cheer is one that I’ve been in my whole life, though. I love cheer!”

She continued, “Before powerlifting, I always wanted to go to college for cheer, and I got some offers. That was the plan originally, cheer in college then graduate and coach cheer. Then I got into powerlifting…”

Kenedee Rowen, front and center, participates with the Huron cheer team at a meet in Watertown this past season.

Her progression to lifting also can be tracked back to her mother, Betsy.

“With Crossfit, my mom started doing it, and then my whole family got into it,” Kenedee remembers. “I liked it a lot and I went every day.”

Since she got more serious into powerlifting, she’s moved into specific workouts for powerlifting.

“I lift six times per week,” Rowen smiled. “That’s my focus now. It’s all I’ve been doing all summer. I hit each lift (bench, squat, deadlift) twice per week.”

After Kenedee worked her powerlifting around other sports of interest over the past few years, Priebe thinks Rowen’s natural strength will only be more refined and could truly “explode” with full-time focus on powerlifting at Midland.

“She has been such a treat. It’s been a lot of fun to work with her over the past few years,” Priebe stated. “I’m really excited to see what she can do at Midland where she can just lift without any other distractions.”

Her first college meet will be Oct. 7 in Lincoln, Neb.