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Knights, Blue Devils trade titles

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 1/18/23

OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High girls weightlifting coach Benjamin White may be trying to leave a legacy on his departure to Pedro Menendez High to take over that football program with a second team win over …

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Knights, Blue Devils trade titles


OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High girls weightlifting coach Benjamin White may be trying to leave a legacy on his departure to Pedro Menendez High to take over that football program with a second team win over defending state champion Clay High as the Blue Devils and Lady Knights traded Clay County team titles at the Clay County Championships held at Oakleaf on Thurs., Jan. 12.

“The journey is not about me, but about leaving the program in a better spot than when I got here, something my dad taught me when he was a coach,” said Oakleaf girls weightlifting coach Benjamin White. “Since I started coaching, I have always said that I wanted to be a head coach and, I think, my experiences over the last 10 years; five here with Oakleaf football, have me ready to take the shot at Pedro Menendez High School.”

Oakleaf held off a Clay surge in the Traditional lift scoring with a 48-45 win over the Blue Devils with the Blue Devils turning the table in the Olympic scoring 49-47.

With a revamp on his program at Fleming Island High School, Fleming Island coach Sean Coultis got a one point third place over Ridgeview, 41-40, to take the bronze in the Olympic event. Fifth went to Middleburg with Orange Park and Keystone Heights tied at fifth.

“Fleming Island coach Sean Coultis and I both have a great opportunity to see what state championship coaching looks like with Clay High’s Rodney Keller being the top program in Clay County, if not around the state,” said White, noting the Lady Blue Devils dominating state team titles last year in both categories; Traditional and Olympic Snatch. “This year is a new format that gives teams more opportunity to score points with the format a three-prong scoring approach.”

In Traditional, Middleburg was third at 42 with Ridgeview fourth at 36 followed by Fleming Island, Keystone Heights and Orange Park.

Scores are determined with the combination totals from Olympic Snatch, Clean and Jerk and Bench Press in a new format used at FHSAA competition.

Top lifter honors went to Fleming Island’s Autumn Leviston in Traditional who edged Clay state champion Emma Heck in the pound for pound calculation. Heck totaled 345 in her 129 pound division while Leviston totaled 310 at 110.

In the Olympic best lifter honor, Ridgeview’s Adriana Dimeo was top honors with a 310 total in her 119 pound weight division with Heck against second with a 315 total at 129. Ridgeview took third in the category with 110 pounder Ania Haber hoistin a 245 total.

At 101, Deja Hill (RHS) won the Olympic title at 170 with Middleburg’s Hannah Piniero winning in Tradition with a 205 total.

At 110, Haber won Olympics with a 245 total with Leviston winning Traditional at 310 with Haber second at 265.

At 119, Dimeo totaled 310 to win Olympics with a 300 total to also win Traditional.

At 129, Heck won Olympic in dominant fashion at 315 with a 345 total in Tradition as the lone 300-plus total in that category. Trista Harrison of Middleburg was second in Olympics with Lillian Auble of Oakleaf second in Traditional.

At 139, Fleming Island’s Jillian LaBelle, a top lacrosse athlete, won a 265 total battle in Olympic with Anna Shepard of Clay with Labelle winning by body weight. Dejean Mote of Oakleaf won Traditional with a 295 total with Shepard 10 pounds off in second.

At 154, Clay state champion Janiyah Stevens followed teammate Emma Heck’s strategy with the only 300-plus total in Olympic for that win then a 345 total to win Traditional.

At 169, Oakleaf’s Ivy Gunn hit a 310 total in Olympic to win there then a big 360 in Tradition with a 190 bench press.

Keystone Heights’ Kaylee Wright was second at 270 and 335 chasing Gunn.

At 183, the return from injury to full power of Clay’s Annalee Harbison was evident with her 295 winning Olympic with a massive 350 winning Tradition.

At 199, Oakleaf teammates Danielle Ibe and Caylin Volpe were separated from 1-2 by a 190.20-190.10 body weight difference, respectively, with both totaling 280 in Olympics. Both also tied at 310 in Tradition.

“Danielle and Cayling are both early lifters into the program that have elevated their game to a point that they could win a district or region title down the line,” said White. “I saw my first team picture with 18 athletes and then realize that we have 60 girls now. The interest has been phenomenal around the county as the coaches and athletes both see the benefits of the sport as it pertains to muscle development into other sports.”

At Unlimited, Clay state champion Kyleigh LaFary and teammate Kenya Tinajero went 1-2; 335-320, in Olympics and 395-380, to show off their impressive numbers heading to the state championships.