Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer
She reaches down and grabs the bar. Bends her knees, lifts her chest. Takes a deep breath…and lifts.
Lt. j.g. Nyrel Allen, the 5-foot-2, 120-pound Coast Guard officer, has just lifted 266.7 pounds, setting a new record.
And it’s only the beginning.
“Sometimes I feel that when people look at other athletes, they say, ‘That’s beyond what I could do,’” said Allen. “It’s not. It’s possible. The opinion I thought people had of my ability held me back, but now I block all that out.”
Allen inspires fellow female power lifters and junior Coast Guard members as she leads by example and dedicates herself to everything she does. She was first introduced to competitive powerlifting by a friend who told her she had the body type for it. It took six months before she decided to approach a trainer.
“I said, ‘I want to be a competitive power lifter,’” she recalled. “He looked at me, laughed a little and said they had a meet coming up in six weeks. One of the best decisions I made was to say yes.”
Her courage paid off. Allen attended the Columbia City Classic in Seattle in October 2014 and shattered every Washington State and national record for a military female in her weight class. She competed at the Washington State Powerlifting Championships in Seattle in February and the U.S.A. Power Lifting Military Nationals and Southeastern States Bench Press Competition in Atlanta in March, with similar results. Every time she competes, Allen has breaks her previous personal bests. She is the current titleholder of 16 different powerlifting records. She was also the only member of the Coast Guard to participate in the military competitions.
“I’ve been privileged to come into the sport and break records,” said Allen. “I’ve brought a lot of pride to the Coast Guard. But I want to be more than the girl who’s breaking the military records. I want to be the girl who breaks all the records.”
To continue to excel in her sport, Allen adheres to a strict diet and exercise plan.
“Powerlifting is very much a marathon sport,” she said. “With most other sports, you practice every day. When you’re practicing to lift more weight, you can’t work out as hard as you thought you could because you risk injuring yourself. It’s not just pick things up and put them down. It actually takes an incredible amount of finesse.”
Another activity that requires finesse for the Tucson, Arizona, native is balancing her work and home life. Allen serves as a command duty officer at the Coast Guard 13th District command center. As CDO, she is responsible for coordinating the response of Coast Guard crews for everything from search and rescue and law enforcement cases to marine pollution and agency assists.
“We invest a lot of time in being leaders to other people,” she said. “The service teaches us to be selfless, but powerlifting has taught me to be a little selfish. It has taught me that it’s okay to invest in yourself, to give yourself me time.
As both a physically and mentally strong female leader, Allen has inspired many women throughout her career. While previously assigned to Coast Guard Cutter Midgett in Seattle, Allen often trained with Petty Officer 2nd Class Kira Patino, a boatswain’s mate who at the time worked for Allen in the cutter’s navigation division.
“I really enjoyed training with her,” said Patino. “She pushed both of us as hard as possible to get the best results we could. As a female, it was great working for her. Her leadership style is very diverse, different from other junior officers.
Whether lifting more than two times her body weight, sailing the high seas or overseeing operations for more than 40 Coast Guard units in the Pacific Northwest, Allen continues to be an inspiration for all.
Do you know someone who embodies the Coast Guard Core Values of Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.