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FIHS Johnson: Post-injury silver

HECK YEAH! Three state titles for Emma

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor
Posted 12/31/69

LAKELAND - Clay High junior weightlifter Emma Heck dominated her division as expected for an unprecedented third straight double state title weekend while Fleming Island junior Bradi Johnson came …

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FIHS Johnson: Post-injury silver

HECK YEAH! Three state titles for Emma


LAKELAND - Clay High junior weightlifter Emma Heck dominated her division as expected for an unprecedented third straight double state title weekend while Fleming Island junior Bradi Johnson came within whiskers of getting her first gold despite an injury that stole critical training time as area lifters battle against some of the strongest lifters yet to compete at the FHSAA girls weightlifting championships in Lakeland on Friday and Saturday.
"The competition around the state just keeps getting tougher and tougher," said Clay first-year head coach Autumn Null, who replaced Hall of Fame coach Rodney Keller after Keller hit an also unprecedented third year of state titles in a row last year. "It was a blast. All the girls did super and I'm super proud of them."
For Heck, Null noted that her preparation for the state-run has been connected to a possible USA World Team invitation.
"She has been busy balancing the USA Weightlifting event for her Worlds spot and high school season," said Null. "She has done really well keeping both goals in front of her."
Clay, without the roster of the Keller era to reproduce yet another state title for the Lady Blue Devils, finished tied for sixth in the Olympics scoring (Olympic Snatch and Clean and Jerk) with Braden River with just 10 team points with Leesburg dominating the top spot with 30 points. New Smyrna Beach was runner-up at 24 with Springstead third at 14.
In Traditional (Olympic Snatch and Bench Press), Clay tied with River Ridge with eight points for eighth place. Leesburg won against with 29 points with New Smyrna Beach close at 26 for second and Springstead third at 18.
Bolstering Null's proclamation of the state getting stronger, Heck, twice the lifter of the day at the state meet for her previous two double state titles at 129 weight class, was second in both disciplines to Springstead's 154 Olympic champion Nicole Caamano who amassed a total lift total of 465 pounds (210/255) to Heck's 375 (160/215). Heck's 215 in clean and jerk was a state's best for her weight class.
In Traditional, New Smyrna's 199 champion Asha-Mahri Manzueta totaled and incredible 540 pounds (230/310) to finish ahead of Heck's 385 (215/170) total at 129. Caamano was fourth at 425.
The Top Lifters award is a mathematical calculation comparing body weight and lift totals.
Also for Clay, Ansley Lyda, at 199, finished on the podium with a sixth in Traditional with a 350 total and fourth in Olympic with another 350 total.
"She hit eight of her nine lifts on the day," said Null. "She finally hit the 195-pound clean and jerk that she has been working on all season. That was huge."
In Traditional, Clay nabbed medals at 119 with Kethnie Gedeon eighth.
For Fleming Island coach Sean Coultis, the third year for him, the building on his team has been a year-by-year improvement in numbers and a foundation of one state champion last year (Autumn Leviston) and a silver medalist this season, but with a twist.
"Bradi Johnson is so loose when she competes that she doesn't think too much about the competition around her to think she can't compete," said Coultis. "The amazing part of Bradi's finish is that she missed about six months of training due to a knee injury during a cheerleader competition. She worked her butt off to get here and, I think, crushed it. She'll be back."
For Johnson, second at 119 in the Olympics, her loss of training time was a factor but was also a motivation for her to work harder.
"I could only do upper body stuff with my knee and that made me stronger for clean and jerk," said Johnson, who chased eventual 119 champion Jennifer Castro-Morales of Choctawhatchee who totaled 310 in Olympic to Johnson's 285.
"I got a good clean and jerk to get close, but my Snatch was 25 pounds away," said Johnson, fourth in Tradition with Castro-Morales winning. "I knew I would need to go big in clean and jerk because my bench press is my weak spot. "I tied her in clean and jerk (at 165 with Castro-Morales failing at attempts at 175, then 195) and that made it exciting, but I only benched 130 and she went 180. Now I know what I need when I come back next year."
For Fleming Island, 14th in Traditional and 13th in Olympics, one loss of points came from sophomore Kathryn Ward at 139 who got ill during the competition and, despite a gallant effort to compete, did not score team points.
"She was throwing up all day and still lifting," said Coultis. "I encouraged her to keep competing realizing that one bad day does not negate a district and region title and a great season. Her efforts, I think, inspired the rest of the team."
Coultis got eighth place in the Olympics from Leah Anderson at 183 and Kyla Marshall ninth at 101.
"We are very young all around after graduating a state champion and three key lifters last year," said Coultis. "We will just keep building and these girls are the nucleus."
Also in the 119 division, Ridgeview's Ania Haber returned from a weigh-in snafu last year to finish fifth with a 270 for Olympic and sixth with a 290 for Traditional.
Ridgeview also had senior Harper Herring at 183 with eighth in Tradition and seventh in Olympics. Deja Hill, at 110, finished seventh in the Olympics with a 235 total.
Middleburg, with a region title coming in fueled by numbers in each weight class, finished 19th in Tradition and 13th in Olympics with double medalists (top 10) in two weight classes with Trinity Woodley and Ash Piniero finishing eighth and 10th at 101 Tradition and Caylee Johnson and Madison Underwood finishing third and eighth in Tradition. Middleburg coach Rhiannon Weiskopf also got a ninth at 139 from Carly Johnson in Tradition.
In the Olympics, Middleburg had Underwood with a fifth at 154 and Ava Clinkscale at 10th at 199.
In Class 1A, St.Johns Country Day School sent two competitors; defending Olympics champion Addison Frisbee and newcomer Gabi Oceguera both finishing ninth in the Olympics; Frisbee at 129, Oceguera at 139. Frisbee had a knee injury during the season. Oceguera missed her first two tries in Clean and Jerk at 145 before hitting her final lift to stay competitive.
Keystone Heights had one competitor, Chloe Still, at 139, who competed in Tradition and had lifts of 135 for clean and jerk and 145 for bench press.
In Class 3A, Oakleaf's top finishers were G'Amiya Aiken at 183 with sixth in Tradition, Dejean Motes at 154; 10th in Traditional, and Nya Russell, 10th in Olympics at 119.
Oakleaf had their largest contingency with seven lifters competing with Christian Beasley in Unlimited missing by just 10 pounds for a top 10 finish; Danielle Ibe at 199; Danielle Gilbert at 129 and Ilda Simons at 110.
In Class 2A, competing out of top 10 were Jada Hill (105 RHS), Sydney Kelly (110 FIHS), Ari Seibel (110 MHS), KK Hagen (139 MHS), M-Dealle Calixte (154 RHS), Bailey Parker (169 CHS), Lily O'Steen (169 FIHS), Madison Roach (169 RHS), Alyssa Prather (183 MHS), Layla Decristofaro (199 FIHS), Lilly Williams (199 MHS), Juliana Sosa (199 FIHS), Kerra Clarida (Unl MHS), Autumn Pelfry (Unl MHS).