Female athletes may assume their sports careers will end after high school, college or an injury, but Carli Terepka found a way to become an exception to the norm.
In August, Terepka earned her pro bodybuilding card by winning her height class at the International Federation of Bodybuilders North American Championship in Pittsburgh.
“I just knew during the whole preparation and getting ready (for the show) that it felt right and this would be the one,” the 23-year-old said.
Terepka, a 2012 graduate of Highland High School, developed an urge to try bodybuilding while attending the annual Arnold Classic at the Columbus Convention Center.
“I saw the girls on stage in the bodybuilding competition and thought, ‘I’m going to do that,’” said Terepka, who was a high school senior at the time.
With a background in youth wrestling, soccer and track, Terepka already was familiar with the weight room, but due to a history of knee injuries, she thought her athletic career was over. Terepka was unable to compete for the Hornets as a senior after playing varsity soccer and being a regional-qualifying sprinter in track.
“Originally, I wanted to play soccer in college and professionally, but by that point, my knees were shot,” Terepka said.
She still had the competitive bug, so she hit the gym, researched workouts and entered her first show as a figure competitor at 18. Although she did not have a coach when she began her journey in bodybuilding, Terepka placed third.
“I just winged it,” said the Medina resident, who trains at UXL Fitness 24/7 Access in Brunswick.
Terepka spent a few years competing in the figure division, where female competitors wear heels and demonstrate a limited number of poses for the judges. She continued to have success.
Terepka later joined forces with a coach out of Orlando, Nikki Gutierrez, and turned her focus to physique.
Figure competitors are required to have a small degree of muscularity, overall muscle tone with shapely lines, overall firmness and not appear to be excessively lean.
Physique competitors need to have the overall aesthetics and look of those in figure, but execute more poses on stage while the judges watch for overall muscularity, shape, proportion, muscle tone, poise and beauty.
“In figure, I was almost holding back,” Terepka said. “I put on muscle very quickly. I had to take everything (in my training) down a notch, like lifting with less weight and doing higher reps. With physique, I am able to train the way I want to train.”
The switch paid off. Approximately two years and three shows later, Terepka won her class and earned her pro card.
“From the beginning and all of the shows that I’ve done, I’ve placed high for my age,” said the 5-foot-4 Terepka, whose stage weight is 136 pounds and only 6 pounds more than her high school weight. “When I switched to physique, I took nine months off (from competing) and added more size.”
Terepka, who recently completed her associate degree in nursing and is beginning work on her bachelor’s, now is turning her focus to her next goal: Make it to Olympia, the most prestigious bodybuilding competition in the world.
To be invited to the Olympia, athletes compete in the pro competition series and need to win a show for an automatic bid or accrue points based on placements. At the end of the Olympia qualifying season, the three competitors with the highest point totals in the series qualify to compete at Olympia Weekend.
Terepka said she hopes to qualify for Olympia Weekend by age 25. Currently recovering from knee surgery to fix some complications from previous procedures, she plans to begin her journey as a pro in 2018.
“My goal had always been to turn pro, but the bigger goal is to make it to Olympia,” Terepka said. “That’s the best of the best.”
Contact Lisa Gayle Grayson at firstname.lastname@example.org.