A relative rookie to the sport, teenage metro weightlifter has her sights set on world stage

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LENEXA, Kan. -- Big things sometimes come in small packages.

Such is the case for a young weightlifter from the metro. She's near the top of her sport, even though she's in high school.

In the gym, power rules and Audrey Rips-Goodwin is a beast with barbells. When 2017 begins, the 14-year-old Blue Valley Southwest High School freshman will take top billing in her age group in the USA Olympic Weightlifting ranks.

Rips-Goodwin won Olympic Youth Nationals in the 12-13 age group, and will rise to the top of her new age group when others age out.

She's only 5’3" and 127 pounds, but Rips-Goodwin can clean and jerk close to 150 pounds.

“I'm good at it, I guess and it's one of those things where you just find it,” Rips-Goodwin told FOX 4 News. “You can forget about other things, I guess, while you're doing it.”

Only two years into the sport, the Overland Park native has competed in 15 weightlifting meets, including four at the national level. Rips-Goodwin took an interest in weightlifting as a 12-year-old, hoping to gain more strength as a volleyball player. Being nationally-ranked so high at a young age has her supporters talking Olympic dreams.

“It's the motivation and focus that gets in here every day,” Stan Goodwin, Audrey’s father, said. “The whole movement is all the peak of a piece. She does squats to make her arms stronger and other work to make her shoulders stronger.”

Five days per week, Rips-Goodwin puts herself through long three-hour workouts at KC Weightlifting in Lenexa. She’s coached by Anna Martin, the gym’s owner, who remains a competitive lifter, and has coached at the Division One collegiate level and at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado.

“There is not a girl born the same year as her, or younger than can lift more than her in her weight class right now,” Martin said.

“She's improving. She comes in her five days per week, and sometimes three-to-four hours per night.”

Rips-Goodwin knows to reach the world stage, she'll have a decade of hard work ahead of her. Her coach says weightlifters don't hit their stride until well into their late 20's. That means the 2024 Olympic Games is a realistic goal.

“Once I started doing it, I wanted to get to that level. I'm the type of person that if I'm going to do something, I'm going to be the best,” Rips-Goodwin said.

In one respect, she's already lifted her way to the top.

KHSHAA, the governing body for high school sports in Kansas, doesn't sanction weightlifting as a sport. Rips-Goodwin's coach says she has her sights set on two national records for her age group. She could set new American marks in the clean-and-jerk and the snatch within the next year.

(Reporter's note: Special thanks to WolfByteTV, the student-operated journalism department at Blue Valley West High School, contributed video that was used in this story.)