RIO HONDO — Paloma Murillo, 18, never imagined she would become the powerlifter she is now.

The Rio Hondo High School senior took the State Lightweight Division at the 2021 Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association when she squatted 315 pounds, benched 190 pounds and deadlifted 305 pounds for a total of 810 pounds.

Murillo was awarded Most Outstanding Bench and Total in the Lightweight Division.

As state champion in her division, she was given the opportunity to compete in the nationals qualifier in San Antonio. Murillo then returned home with college scholarship offers.

However, her story began in Port Isabel, where she grew up.

During her sophomore year, she began attending school in Rio Hondo and was told to try out powerlifting.

“It was for me to start working out, but later on I fell in love with the sport. And I just love lifting,” Murillo said.

Since her recent trip, Murillo has been approached by the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Midland College in Nebraska.

Her school plans to hold a scholarship signing ceremony for her toward the end of May. She finally decided to attend college in Nebraska.

“I saw that they have a lot of good lifters. And I talked to the coach, and it seems like a really nice school. I look up to them,” she said.

Murillo plans to study criminal justice and said she plans on becoming a police officer in the future.

However, her dream job is working for the FBI.

“It has been my dream job since middle school. I want to protect the people that I love, and I know a lot of people don’t feel safe. And I want to make them feel safe,” Murillo said.

Murillo is also a part-time hostess at Denny’s in South Padre Island.

According to coach Mike Garza, she has always been disciplined and trained hard. Last season, after she qualified for state, Murillo set new goals and began working toward them.

“This year, she became Regional Champion and State Champion, so she was catching the eyes of recruiters early on,” Garza said.

“Paloma is one of the hardest workers and one of the most humble kids I know. We have a bunch of great kids in Rio Hondo, but it’s been a great pleasure coaching Paloma,” he said.

RHHS Principal Asael Ruvalcaba said the school was extremely proud of her achievements.

“She is a good scholar and athlete, and we look forward to seeing what she’ll achieve in college,” he said.

For Murillo, having these opportunities has been a one step closer to her goals.

“Sometimes I just cannot even believe it. Sometimes I feel there could have been someone else better than me. I always felt like I was not good enough at this sport,” she said.

“I am so proud of myself,” Murillo said.