WICHITA, Kan. Madison Hileman shows that being the smallest in the room doesn't mean you can't be the strongest.
The Wichita athlete uses that as motivation in her sport, even after making the the jump from a NCAA Division I college cheerleader to an elite power lifter.
Hileman found her passion in the weight room and most days, you can find her at Top Crop Bar in Wichita, working on what she loves most. Her passion for powerlifting is something she found almost by accident while recovering from injury.
"I started lifting for rehab reasons. I got my legs stronger and then along the way, I started lifting with the big boys and then, 'hey, I'm good at this. I am small, but I can lift a lot of weights,'" Hileman says.
Hileman has a small frame, standing at just 4'11 with an athletic build. She's strong and has the numbers and records to prove it.
Hileman says she can dead lift three times her body weight and is close to matching that feat in squat.
She holds six state records in two weight classes and also holds a national record.
Before she got into powerlifting full time, Hilmean cheered for Wichita State University.
"It was kind of ironic because when I got (to Wichita State), I was a flyer, which is the girl on top. That isn't supposed to be a beefy, muscular girl. That is supposed to be a petite girl," she says.
She says the decision to ultimately step away from cheerleadling was tough, but she had to follow her heart.
"I was so used to being told that I was small, that I thought, 'I am going to do it. I am going to do it whether I succeed or not so that I can be able to say that I've done it,'" Hileman says.
Hileman's next strongman competition is set for October. Until then, she'll spend most or her time at the gym, emulating her favorite super hero, the Incredible Hulk.
"I'll get angry. I'll get frustrated and then Hulk out," she says.