Strength in Numbers: Holmen’s Markos Cash finding passion, acceptance through powerlifting

When school is out, the weights in the Holmen weight room don’t see much action–until Markos Cash heads into the gym.

“That’s his warm up.”

“Markos doesn’t miss a day of practice, and when he’s here he really busts his rear,” Holmen powerlifting head coach Heidi Neubauer said.

Working alone doesn’t bother Markos, who had a hard time fitting into team sports.

“He had struggled previously to find a place to fit in,” Neubauer said. “He explained to me that his autism really caused him to have some social anxieties, and trouble with peers.”

“When I first started I was a bit shy because I’ve never been much of a people person,” Cash said. “The only competition is myself.”

So weight lifting was perfect for Cash, allowing him to compete with himself–but never alone.

“That helped build up my social skills because I was working with others,” Cash said. “It helped a a lot. Knowing that you’re in a good place with good people.”

Having a strong support net around him, Cash applied himself and qualified for nationals. But there was a problem.

“Due to COVID, they pushed a national championship back a few months so we’re looking at competing in the last week of May.

“Graduation would be the same day I lift.”

So between lifting and walking, Cash found the best of both worlds.

“Mom and Dad brought along a graduation cap and gown, and got a picture of Markos on that platform,” Neubauer said. “That smile was bigger on that platform than it would have been on that graduation stage.”

“Powerlifting was the place I found myself in,” Cash said. “Somewhere that I can work on myself with others.”

And through powerlifting, the once shy freshman graduated into a confident athlete with a set of life-long memories and friends.

Cash will continue to powerlift when he attends UW-Eau Claire this fall.