Brent and Tracey Steinbach have been volunteering with the local Special Olympics powerlifting team for the past five years. The couple started a team after some individuals from the Northern Hills Training Center expressed interest in working out.
 Tracey Steinbach cheers on lifters during the Special Olympics Summer Games at BHSU last month.

 Tracey and Brent Steinbach prep Special Olympics power lifter Nate Seiler for his bench press during the recent Special Olympics Summer Games.

The timing was perfect.

Five years ago, when the Northern Hills Training Center called to ask Tracey Steinbach and her husband Brent, a record-setting USA Powerlifting (USAPL) competitor, to help a small group of individuals work out, the couple immediately said yes.  

 “We kind of were drawn because, at the time, we had a granddaughter who was just diagnosed with cerebral palsy, so we had a soft spot in our hearts for helping people with disabilities,” said Tracey, a Black Hills State University senior computer support specialist. “It was a no brainer for us when they asked us to train.”

That along with Brent’s experience and the fact there was no Special Olympics powerlifting team in the area created the perfect opportunity for the Spearfish couple to help.

The couple has been volunteering with the Special Olympics since and their small group of six participants has grown to 25. Brent and Tracey’s team just finished competing in the state Special Olympics Summer Games held at BHSU last month.  

BHSU has hosted the state Special Olympics Summer Games for the last two years and will host the event again next May. This spring, many Spearfish residents and more than 40 BHSU athletes volunteered during the community-wide event. Brent and Tracey are among the volunteers for the Summer Games but their commitment to working with the power lifters extends throughout the year with twice- a-week workouts with the lifters from the Northern Hills Training Center, an organization devoted to providing quality residential and vocation opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities, and West River Power Lifting, a special needs team. 

 “Our goal was that we would never turn anybody away based on their disability,” Tracey said noting that they have one athlete with multiple sclerosis who is blind and in a wheelchair.

“Whoever wants to come we will find something they can do,” she said. The team, whose ages range from 18 to 67, had 17 lifters participate in the recent Summer Games.

“We are always proud of how well they do,” she said noting there are many talented athletes on the team. One of those athletes is BHSU student Trevor Tridle, exercise science major from Deadwood. The Steinbachs recently nominated Tridle, who is autistic, to be one of two male power lifters from South Dakota to compete in the 2014 Special Olympics National Games in New Jersey.  A Special Olympics board will make the final decision on whether Tridle will compete in the event next June.  

 Recent BHSU graduate Paul Gates spots Trevor Tridle, BHSU exercise science major, while he deadlifts more than 400 lbs. The Steinbachs nominated Tridle to be one of two male power lifters from South Dakota to compete in the 2014 Special Olympics National Games in New Jersey.
“Trevor is an amazing lifter and very dedicated,” Tracey said. In the most recent Special Olympic games, Tridle squatted 400 lbs. and deadlifted 450 lbs., she said. “He’s come a long way.”

The Special Olympians are trained the same way competitive USAPL lifters are trained, Tracey said. “They are required to do the same commands, the same movements and follow all the rules as in the USAPL,” she said.

Aside from the Special Olympics games, the Northern Hills team also competes in USAPL events.  The team has participated in three South Dakota USAPL events with another one coming up later this fall. While they compete in a separate division, they are participating alongside the competitive USAPL power lifters.

“All the (USAPL) athletes are amazed at the abilities and training of our athletes,” Tracey said. One of the highlights for the athletes is competing next to their coach Brent who still competes with the USAPL.

Brent holds several state records and last year competed on the USA Worlds team placing fourth. Tracey lifts but not competitively.

She says they love volunteering noting that they benefit more from the interaction than the athletes.

“We wouldn’t (volunteer) if we didn’t feel so passionate about what we are doing,” she said adding that they feel more like friends than coaches.

The Steinbachs also get assistance from friends, family and BHSU staff, faculty and students. The athletes train at the Donald E. Young Fitness and Sports Center.

The team is taking the summer off but will be back training two days a week after Labor Day for the USAPL event in the fall.