OAKLEAF - Oakleaf, Clay and Ridgeview girls weightlifters stormed the area district tournaments to take home team trophies in three districts last week as lifters now gear up for regions.
In Class 2A, in district 3-2A, Oakleaf, with graduated state champion Lexi Perez off the roster, held off a late run by Middleburg High's upper weights to win that title with the Lady Knights getting wins from Tamira Briley (119), Nicole Masters (129), Allison Burley (154), Gabby Willits at 199 and Markayla Green (Unlimited).
"Lexi gave us a high bar to follow and also the ambition that it is possible with enough hard work," said Masters. "She was the first, but she showed the effort needed to get there."
Middleburg got titles from Kaitlyn Carter (169) and a 1-2 finish at 183 from Jewel Taylor and Sidney Trinidad.
Fleming Island got two second place finishes; Caleigh Perkins (139) and Kristen Barns (154).
Briley, a returning 10th at 110 last year at 270, won the 119 title at 295 with Middleburg's Atlantis Clinkscale just 25 pounds off the mark. Briley dominated the clean and jerk with both lifters just five pounds away after the bench press.
Masters held off two Middleburg lifters; Leslie Catlett and Ambree Sandell to win at 129 with a 10 pound win in the clean and jerk with all three also five pounds off after the bench.
"I have been out for six weeks with clots in my lungs; four days in the hospital," said Masters. "That clean and jerk was a best since leaving the hospital. I've done 155 and I'm sure I can get there by state."
Willits, who tangoed with Middleburg's Griffin at 183 last year with Griffin 10th and Willits 11th at the state championships, got her win at 199 over Griffin by just 10 pounds with a 195 clean and jerk after Griffin led with a 160-155 effort on the bench press.
"I did 190 at the Clay County meet and hit the 195 today," said Willits. "I don't think I was mentally ready on my 205 try. I felt a little tweak on my wrist on the 195 lift."
In a clash between Ridgeview and Baker County in new district 5-1A, the Lady Panthers broke a string of district and top area state finishes (sixth in 2019, second in 2018, fifth in 2017 and 2016) for the Wildcats with their title at the Baker County High School gym.
Led by titles to Vishwa Patel, Aysia Hill, Alanna Bonifacio and Kylie Zitkus, the Panthers used numbers in each weight group to dethrone the Wildcats.
Ridgeview finished with seconds in four weight classes and thirds in four.
Also in district 5-1A, Orange Park advanced four athletes; Yaniah Rivera, Demi Harris, Haley Beardin and Ysabella Luperico with Rivera top finisher with a fourth at 139.
Region 3-1A will be hosted by Ridgeview High, Thurs., Jan. 30, 330 p.m. (RHS, OPHS)
Region 4-1A will be hosted by Pedro Menendez High, Wed., Jan. 29 3:30 p.m.(CHS, KHHS)
Region 2-2A will be hosted by Flagler Palm Coast High, Sat., Feb. 1 11 a.m. (OHS, MHS, FIHS)
For Clay High, also in Class 1A, but now away from Baker County in district and region play, the road to the state meet first goes through district 7-1A, then region 4-1A before coach Rodney Keller gets his shot at Baker County.
"You know, we've never beaten Clay in head to head competition and it has made both programs better over the last five years," said Keller. "We won't see them until the state meet. That Ridgeview team tied us in a dual match. They are very good. It makes the whole area better with more teams improving each year."
Clay and Baker County have a long history of nearby state meet finishes with Clay third last year; Baker County sixth, Baker County second in 2018, Clay fourth, and, in 2017, Clay fourth, Baker County fifth.
At the district 7-1A meet, Clay dominated with seven titles in 10 weight classes with titles to Gabriella Etheridge (101), Samantha Migliore (110), Riley Ledford (119), Nadiya Jones (129), Janiyah Stevens (139), Lindsey Brooks (199) and Kaila McKean (Unlimited).
"Right now, we are about staying healthy, getting our lifts in during the week and being ready for districts on Wednesday," said Keller.
Brooks and McKean dominated their respective weight classes with wins of 75 and 70 pounds, respectively.
At 110, Migliore won with a 65 pound margin; with a bench press of 125 and a clean and jerk of 140, both 35 pounds better than the class runnerup.
Clay's numbers; with two lifters in all but two classes having two Clay lifters finish in the top six to advance.
One wrinkle that Keller sees as integral in his program is the inclusion of former lifters into the training with the team.
"It says a lot when a former athlete comes back and trains with the team," said Keller. "We have Brooke Berger, a state champion, and Carli McRae and Autumn Null, both state medalists, doing a lot of coaching with me. It speaks volumes of the tradition and the culture to have them in the room with the girls."
For Keystone Heights, also in district 7-1A, four athletes advanced; Lori Tarvit (119), Zoe Dearborn (129), Grace Wagner (154) and Katie Gruel (199).