The rivalry that drives Taylor and Rochelle Longstreth is unlike what most teenage sisters share.
While there are undoubtedly many traits they have in common with countless other siblings, what makes theirs unique is the way the sisters from Fruitland often see their relationship move from happiness to frustration.
Taylor, 19, and Rochelle, 15, are world-record holding powerlifters, and, needless to say, their workout sessions in the family’s garage often get a little more rowdy than you might see at your local gym.
“She’s sometimes vicious to me,” Rochelle said, eliciting laughter from her older sister.
“I mean the best. Sometimes she doesn’t want to work the hardest,” Taylor said, as the sisters shared a laugh. “It’s fun. I think it brings us closer as siblings. Sometimes we hate each other afterwards and have to stay in separate rooms. Later on in that night, we’re usually good.”
In just two years, the Longstreth sisters went from lifting newbies to each setting four World Powerlifting Congress and its drug-testing counterpart, AWPC, records at a meet in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 2.
Their methods work, but, at the end of the day, they’re still sisters.
“A lot of times I’ll end up walking out in the garage and come back in and let what happens, happen,” their dad, Lance, said.
An innocent start
Taylor, a 2015 Louisa-Muscatine graduate, started lifting weights in high school because she had to as a member of the Falcons girls track and field team.
Early on, Taylor’s strong form in the squat lift — one of the three lifts along with bench and deadlift that powerlifters take part in during competitions — caught the eye of Scott Morel, who helped out in the L-M weight room.
"She had been doing morning practice with Scott," Lance said. "Scott was talking with me off and on and telling me she had really good form for the squat, which for the three disciplines ... is the one that really needs to have good discipline and good form."
With that knowledge, Taylor and Lance went to watch a powerlifting meet in November 2013. Two months later, Taylor was competing.
Her first meet came in Dubuque in January 2014, which got Rochelle interested in trying to do so, too, and set Lance, who wasn't a lifter, in motion.
“I went out and did a tremendous amount of learning, reading internet articles and different guys and different programs,” Lance said, “and started working with them little by little learning from different lifters."
Pretty quickly, the family dove in. For Taylor, now a sophomore at Muscatine Community College who plans to move on and study nuclear medicine at Iowa, lifting has become a peaceful part of a busy life.
“For me, it’s just a stress reliever, pretty much, because college is stressful,” Taylor said with a laugh.
Taking the next step
With Lance on board as a sort of coach — he is quick to point out that “I don’t claim to know anything, but I work with them to identify where they’re weak at in different areas” — the family has gradually seen powerlifting take a bigger part of its life.
As they grew to understand the different rules for competitions — there are very specific guidelines for what constitutes a good lift, small things like not lifting your heel up during a lift — they recognized the need to have their own equipment.
“[Taylor’s senior] year, we found that the lifts, they were stalling out,” Lance said. “We went out and priced and got a squat rack and we got like [400 or 500] pounds in weights. That way they could really isolate really doing what they needed to do.”
As they saw gains and continued to take strides, the sisters started to compete more. In the two years they’ve been lifting, they estimate they’ve competed in around 10 competitions, ranging the gambit from the world competition to charity lifting events.
“It’s pretty big,” Rochelle said of the competitions. “There’s a lot of people there.”
“For me it’s pretty exciting,” Taylor added. “Seeing people that love the same thing you love, that’s cool. And you can bounce ideas off each other while we’re out there. It’s like family.”
As women in a sport most associate with men — Lance estimated around 15 percent of competitors at each meet are women — they’ve never been given a reason to think negatively about it.
“I’ve lifted with guys forever, just because it is a guy-dominated sport, but I feel like they care,” Taylor said. “I have more guys trying to help me at a meet.”
Going for the record
Working out every other day despite busy schedules, with Taylor at MCC and Rochelle a sophomore at L-M, they've made a commitment to lifting, and the family even used its annual vacation funds to go to Idaho Falls and compete earlier this month at the urging of Lynn, their mom.
“As my wife, Lynn, has gotten going forward and seeing their commitment and seeing it’s not a just a willy-nilly, we’re just going to go do this and do that; she’s seen the progressive move of them both becoming more dedicated,” Lance said.
With the world records within reach with with where Taylor and Rochelle were with their current lifts, the family decided to take a chance.
“We’re not saying that’s the only thing we go to meets for, but it’s incentive," Taylor said. "We looked at the numbers and they were available to us.”
The meet, the first world competition they've attended, didn’t start off all that well as they looked to set WPC and AWPC world records for squat, bench, deadlift and total pounds for their ages and weight classes.
“It seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong,” Lance said. “[Taylor] missed her last lift. Chelle went up and she had to stand and wait. There were computer problems.”
There was a thought of just giving in and going home, but they didn’t and it paid off as Taylor and Rochelle set eight world records each.
Taylor set a total-pounds record of 282.5 kilograms (622.8 pounds), while Rochelle finished with a total weight lifted of 272.5 kilograms (600.8 pounds).
“It felt good,” Rochelle said, adding: “It just makes you feel good and you start shaking and you just get wild. People start laughing at you then they clap and you just do your lift and they’re like, ‘Wow! She did a lot for being only 15.’”
More to come?
Her focus now on playing basketball for the Falcons, Rochelle has bigger goals down the line.
She wants to keep competing in the hope that, one day, she can compete in the Olympics — if powerlifting becomes an Olympic sport — though she admits she’s already happy with what she’s done.
“I honestly did not think I could lift this much,” Rochelle said. “… I didn’t think I could get this far. Now, I’m lifting pretty big. We made it to the worlds and I didn’t see it coming.”
School is the biggest part of Taylor’s life right now, and going into nuclear medicine, which is using radioactive substances in research, diagnosis, and treatment, won’t keep her any less busy.
Still, she and her dad can’t believe the sisters have reached this point in just two years, given where and how she started, and powerlifting likely won’t ever just stop being part of her life.
“I plan on keeping with it,” Taylor said. “I might have to take a break from the competitions for a while when I go up to the University, but I’m going to at least lift and train. I don’t know if I’ll compete for a couple years. After that, definitely.”