POTW: Romeo powering Lockport

LOCKPORT, Ill. -- Lockport senior Lia Romeo didn’t mind she was one of only two girls to sign up for a powerlifting class at her school.

The boys, most of whom were football players, outnumbered them 28-2, but Romeo wasn’t intimidated. She welcomed the competition.

“It was fun to find out if I could lift more than the boys,” said Romeo, who deadlifted 225 pounds, squatted 185 pounds and bench pressed 100 pounds. “I found it enjoyable to work hard and push myself. There were a couple boys I was able to out-lift.”

As good of a feeling as it was to pump a little more iron than a few of her male classmates, Romeo’s real reward has been her play on the softball diamond. A year after hitting just three home runs, Romeo has already smacked four, including three in one game, this year.

For her play, Romeo is the ESPNChicago.com/Muscle Milk Prep Athlete of the Week.

“I used to never hit home runs,” said Romeo, whose full name is Ophelia Romeo. “My swing, I just feel a lot stronger. I can feel it in my legs with catching. I don’t feel fatigued.”

Romeo showed off those new muscles last week against Glenbard West. In her first at bat, she struck the ball and sent it into left-centerfield. She thought she had hit the ball well, but was surprised when she discovered it had gone over the fence for a home run. In her second at bat, she had the exact same feeling when she made contact, and the ball flew over again.

After reaching base with a double, Romeo came up a final time in the seventh inning, and this time she knew right away she had homered. The ball soared over the leftfield fence, and Romeo made her away around the bases for a third time.

“When I rounded third base, I said to [Lockport coach Marissa] Chovanec, ‘Did this really happen?’” said Romeo, who has signed to play at Western Illinois next season. “She said, ‘I don’t know.’ We were all in shock.”

Chovanec will never forget Romeo’s expression.

“She just kept smiling,” Chovanec said. “Three in one game, I hadn’t seen that before.”

Romeo hit her fourth home run this past week and has continued to be on terror. In her first 23 at bats this season, she had 12 hits, four doubles, four home runs and 10 RBIs.

In addition to her bat, Romeo has also been getting it done defensively for the Porters. Romeo is in charge of calling every pitch for Lockport’s staff and has been a major reason the Porters have opened the season 5-1-1 and ranked in the area.

I was a catcher, and I think it’s important that they call the game,” Chovanec said. “The catchers are in the game. They can see where the batters are. They know the pitchers. She does a great job of handling the pitchers and the staff we have.

“I’m lucky to have here. We’re lucky to have her at Lockport. We’ve had some good catchers in the past here, and she continues that tradition.”