PANAMA CITY BEACH – As expected, the two top weightlifters in Clay County; Clay High’s Brooke Berger and Oakleaf High’s Lexi Perez, both performed as expected at the state weightlifting championships with both dominating, ironically, the 154 pound weight divisions to state titles; Class 1A for Berger, Class 2A for Perez. Both finished second in last year’s state championships.
“Since last year’s second place, my dad (Mel) and I have wanted this spot,”said Perez. “He has been on the ride with me the whole way. He was as nervous about it as I was.”
Clay High, with 16 team points, finished third in Class 1A behind Arnold at 23 and Leesburg at 22. Baker County, the district and region champion over Clay, finished with 10 points for sixth. Ridgeview also had athletes competing, but scored no team points.
“Baker County has a fantastic, well-respected program who has set the bar around the state, so they’re a great measuring stick for us and no doubt drive us competitively,” Clay coach Rodney Keller. “By the state meet however, it’s about being the best you can be individually.”
In 2A, Oakleaf finished with just Perez’ seven points for first place behind champion Sunlake at 22 and runnerup Vero Beach at 19. Middleburg and Oakleaf also had athletes but scored no team points.
After dominating at the district and region championships with overwhelming wins from both, the pair did not disappoint at the state championships.
Berger, with an 80 pound gap at her district championship with a 370 total and a 65 pound gap at her region championship with a 365 total, dominated the same at the state meet with 370 pounds to best Leesburg’s Taylor Woods by 25 pounds.
berger and friends
“It was truly about Brooke stepping out and doing what she has done all year,” said Keller. “I could talk about her level of commitment all day long, as I’ll will never forget it as a coach.”
Berger equalled her set of 185 lifts on the bench press and clean and jerk for the win at state.
Perez, who won by just five pounds despite a 380 best total through the three championship events, bested Sunlake High’s Juliette Pacheco, fifth last year at 139, with a 210 clean and jerk. Pacheco dominated the bench press with a 205 best while Perez, known more for her clean and jerk prowess, finished with just a 170 bench press. Perez was second last year with a 350 total.
Forced to win the event in her specialty, the clean and jerk, Perez did not disappointed as she equaled the best lift of the day; 210 pounds to take the title. Marr Desvarieux of New Smyrna Beach also cleaned 210, but only benched 160 to finish third. Desvarieux, with a 370 total at the state meet, was second to Perez in the region 3-2A championship with a 355 total off a 205 clean and jerk.
“I did get my best on the bench, but I knew Marr was going to be tough in the clean and jerk,” said Perez. “She tried for 225 at regions and I think she did that to just put it out there. She hit 210 first and I had to respond. It was fun but nerve-wracking.”
Perez only needed a 355 to win her district meet with just a 195 clean best, but got her 210 at regions won for a 375 total.
Clay got third place finishes from Katie James at 119 and Lindsey Brooks at 199.
“Iron sharpens iron. When you’re around people as driven as Brooke (and Katie) are, you can’t help but to be better and set your goals a bit higher,” said Keller. “To walk away from the meet with 4 medals was an amazing experience.”
James got her third with a 275 total behind winner Sana Habib of Arnold, who totaled 305, and runner Nikki Richards of Altha, who totaled 300.
Brooks totaled 350 for her third behind winner Auriyana Hankerson of Bradford’s 375 and runnerup Jurnee French’s total of 370.
At 106, Clay’s Kira Boone totaled 215 for sixth with Crystal Howison of Leesburg winning at 250.
In 169, Clay’s Abigail Hawkins totaled 285 with the winner at 370.
In Unlimited, Clay’s Kaila McKean totaled 355 with winner Mahailya Reeves of Union hitting an amazing 545 total with the top 10 lifters all over 400.
Sam Migliore advanced for Clay at 110 but did not get a lift total.
Ridgeview had Grier Burrows at 199 with a 300 total and Jayla Hall at 169 with a 295 total. Tania McCormack was also in 169 and had a 295 total. At 169, the winning total was 370 by Union’s Taylor Gainey.
In 2A, Oakleaf High’s Tamia Briley finished with a 270 total in the 110 pound division with the winner at 335.
Also in 2A, Fleming Island’s Jaeden Fernandez totaled 315 behind the winner’s total of 385.
At 183, region 3-2A champion Katlyn Griffin of Middleburg finished with a 325 total with the winning total at 475. Oakleaf’s Gabby Willits was right behind Griffin with a 320 total with Fleming Island’s Britney Payne not getting a total.