CANTON, Ohio -- Anna Knapski says middle school was brutal. From 7th grade, she felt picked on and bullied by her classmates because of her weight.
"I was big; I was very overweight for a child, and it was kind of like they treated you differently," says Anna, who is now 21.
Knapski says she put on a good front but would secretly disappear into the girls bathroom and cry.
"Some of the kids, I didn't even talk to, and they would see me and then see someone else make fun of me, and they did the same thing," she said.
Her mother, Sandy Knapski, remembers her daughter coming home in tears asking for some help to lose weight.
"You can see the sad, and you want to fix that," said Anna's mother. "You can see people being rude and you want to fix that, too."
Anna says she had friends who believed they were helping her by telling her not to pay attention to the bullies, but after she lost her breath climbing a staircase at school, she realized she needed to do something about her weight, which had crept up to 275 pounds.
With her mother's help, Anna enrolled in a program to help her keep track of her diet. She also started working with a trainer who motivated her not to give up.
"I cried a lot, a lot, and I think it was her who kind of was like the person who was there to say, 'It's OK, you know, don't quit.' "
She stopped eating junk food and lost more than 100 pounds.
By 9th grade, Anna started lifting weights. She was introduced to trainers at Ashland University who gave her a college weightlifting program, and started running track.
In her senior year of high school at Canton South, Anna was among the best female shot putters in the state.
Suddenly people were being nicer to her, but she could not completely erase the emotional scars from the torment she endured just a few years earlier.
"When you lose weight in general, especially me, because people who were mean to me were all of a sudden nice to me. Like, they were my friends, and I forgive, but I don't forget, so it was kind of like, I was nice to them, but I kept my distance," Knapski said.
Knapski ran the Cleveland Marathon without much training for the 26-mile distance.
She also remained committed to her workout, and her new weightlifting friends encouraged her to go to Las Vegas and do something no one else had ever done.
"I was lifting 360 at the time, and they were saying, 'Anna, you could get one of the world records there, I know you can,' and I was like, 'Ahh, you know, that sounds really good, I think I could do it, like, let's do it.' "
In November 2010, Knapski set a world record in the woman's dead lift for teen women 18-19 years old, lifting a bar with 369.2 pounds. In August 201, she set another world record lifting 408.8 pounds.
This May, she hopes to break one of her own records, then lose even more weight, and in August, set her third world record in a different weight class.
"One of the things that I'm hoping comes from this, is that somewhere we will reach a child that is going through this now, and let that child know, 'Hey, you can do this. You can get through the pain,' " said Anna's mother.
Anna says through her journey she has learned that you have to like yourself, not paying attention to what other people say.
"God doesn't make mistakes," said Knapski.
And for others who are being bullied because of who they are, Knapski believes that, like her, they can turn a negative into something positive.
"Don't ever say you can't, because you can."