Family powers up Moncks father and daughter still setting records in lifting

Doug Ricafrente spots his daughter, Stephanie Polk, earlier this month in the Mad Dog Gym where they work out.

They have to be the strongest father and daughter in the state, maybe anywhere, especially for their ages.

Doug Ricafrente, 66, and his 40-year-old daughter, Stephanie Polk, both lifelong residents of Moncks Corner, set new state records for powerlifting at their last meet in March.

They plan to break them again at another meet this summer.

It was a comeback for both of them. Rica-frente still bears the scar on his sternum from triple-bypass surgery three years ago.

It was Polk’s first competition in 15 years, and she had only 10 weeks to get back in shape.

Fortunately, she had her father to help her.

Besides the state records and previous national titles, Ricafrente also holds several world records. He set them in 1992 at the Drug Free World Powerlifting Championships in Norwich, England.

A Post and Courier article acknowledged him as Berkeley County’s first world champion in any event.

Polk won her first national title in 1991 at 19. She competed for several years, got married and retired until recently. Now she’s back breaking records.

“It’s an accomplishment,” she said during a recent training session at the Mad Dog Gym on Main Street. “I’m not a boastful person. It’s just something I can show my grandkids. When you’re in competition, the adrenaline is going.”

A former Naval Shipyard maintenance worker, Ricafrente continues to work at the old Naval Hospital and Naval Weapons Station.

“The reason I stay in shape is you never know when you’re at work or home where you need the strength to pick up something or move something,” he said.

He recalls two co-workers struggling to lift an industrial-size air-conditioning unit into a window, stepping between them and hoisting the unit into place by himself. It also makes carpentry jobs easier when he can carry four or five sheets of plywood at once.

He also says lifting helps him work through any aches and pains he might be experiencing.

“No matter how bad my body’s hurting, I can put my suit on, put on my belt, put on my safety equipment, come in and do squats and then when I get finished, I don’t feel anything,” he said. “When you’re idle, that’s when your muscles go into tension. You need to keep them working.”

Ricafrente started training his daughter when she was 7. They both set national records in 1991.

“We were the only father and daughter in the nation to win national titles in the same sport,” he said.

He also trained her brother. Doug Ricafrente Jr. also holds state records that he set in 1995-96 when he was at Berkeley High School. Now he’s a county emergency dispatcher.

Polk is married to Monty Polk, a former Southern Baptist pastor who teaches business and helps coach football at Berkeley High School. They have a son, Samuel, who is in the fifth grade at Berkeley Intermediate School. She handles referrals and medical records for Berkeley Family Practice.

“I like for people to look at you and think, ‘Oh, gosh, she can’t do anything,’” she said, “and then when you’re in competition or work out in the gym and squatting 400 pounds, people are like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ ”

At the competition in March, Ricafrente lifted in the 275-pound weight class for ages 65-69.

His new records included a 429.5-pound squat, 297.7-pound bench press and 429.5-pound dead lift, as well as a record total of 1,156.7 pounds.

Polk lifted in the unlimited weight division for ages 40-44. Her new records included a 253.5-pound squat, a bench press of 170.7 pounds and a dead lift of 259 pounds for a record total of 683.2 pounds.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.