Bianca Luedeker: A math professor and world-record powerlifter in one
BY ALYSSA TILLEY —
“I’ll tell ya, she is a unique young lady,” said Tim McKeever, the founder, director, and coach of Rec-N-Cru, a powerlifting team stationed in Cottonwood, Arizona.
“Unique” describes Bianca Luedeker, a math professor at Northern Arizona University (NAU) as well as a world record powerlifter, perfectly.
Luedeker has been a Lumberjack since age 17, when she began her undergraduate degree in math education. She then went on to get a master’s degree in mathematics and statistics. After earning her degrees, she instructed at NAU for a year before leaving for Los Angeles to study film. She returned three years later to become a full-time math instructor, teaching classes ranging from quantitative reasoning to Calculus II.
Last year was not only her return to Flagstaff, but also the start of her powerlifting career.
“I’ve been lifting since I was fourteen. My brother actually wanted to turn me into a competitive weight lifter but the problem was that he doesn’t know anything about competition,” Luedeker said.
Therefore, when she heard about Rec-N-Cru during the summer of 2012, her interest was sparked.
“I knew who the coach was because there were pictures of him in the weight room, so I saw him come in and I put as much weight as I could on the bench press so he would recognize me,” Luedeker said. “I’m really shy so I didn’t want to go up and bother him and it worked. People took notice and I got recruited for the team.”
Powerlifting consists of three major events: the bench press, the squat and the dead lift. Lifters can compete in each event separately or do all three for full power.
Luedeker tackles all three at her competitions and since joining Rec-N-Cru she has broken or set 120 world records, 95 national records, and all the Arizona state records.
“What I look for is to take all the people on the team and hope that they turn into a student of the sport because the one thing in powerlifting is there is no one best way. It depends on you,” McKeever said. “You need to find out what works for you, what builds your strengths and weaknesses and then be consistent. The most important thing is learning the form and with her other training like in martial arts and running; she understands and grasps that.”
Luedeker ran cross country during middle school and became a black belt in Taekwondo in her 20s. She stands a mere five feet tall, but her small stature does not hold her back. In fact, she became a world record holder at her first competition in October 2012.
Since that competition, Luedeker has competed four more times, breaking records — whether state, national or world — in every competition.
“Off the mat she’s kind of like Dorothy from Wizard of Oz with her long socks and stuff like that, kind of shy, but you put her on the lifting platform and she turns into Godzilla,” McKeever said. “It’s like watching Bambi turn into Godzilla. She is very competitive.”
In order to stay in shape, Luedeker goes to the gym five days a week and one of those days she goes to Cottonwood to train with McKeever.
“If you are a coach, there are all kinds of different ways to motivate people and you need to learn that everybody on your team is different,” McKeever said. “It’s like being a parent; you’ve got five kids and you can’t raise them all the same way. So with Bianca it’s always, ‘That was really good; you can do better,’ this is even after she just broke a world record. She is always striving to become better and never blames anybody else but herself.”
Luedeker has most recently competed at Nationals during the summer where she bench pressed 155 pounds, therefore setting the open world record, which means that it is the record for all age groups of woman weighing between 109 and 114 pounds.
“It’s a relief. My brother told me never to neglect my natural muscularity so I always felt that I was letting him down,” Luedeker said.
Whether teaching math, making films or lifting weights 40 pounds over her body weight, Luedeker is one of the many unique Lumberjacks on the campus of NAU.
Luedeker hopes to start a women’s bench pressing team at NAU to take to a competition in Phoenix in December.