PANAMA CITY BEACH – Orange Park High weightlifters Zykeim Sermons and Davis Araujo traveled to Panama City not for a Spring Break vacation, but for business and the duo took care of business …
PANAMA CITY BEACH – Orange Park High weightlifters Zykeim Sermons and Davis Araujo traveled to Panama City not for a Spring Break vacation, but for business and the duo took care of business bringing back two gold medals in the FHSAA Class 1A weightlifting championships held Saturday at Arnold High School.
With the two titles; one of five teams to get two individual titles in the 72 team field. Citrus High won with 34 points with Baker County second with 20. Orange Park finished third with 14 tied with Arnold and Sneads. Also from the area, Ridgeview earned two points and Keystone Heights earned one team point. Clay had zero points.
“I’m proud as heck of these two guys to set goals before the season, work hard and then achieve,” said Orange Park weightlift coach Tom Macpherson. “In my 20 years of coaching, these two are my first state champions in the many sports I’ve coached. It’s important to know that it happened at Orange Park High School.”
Sermons and Araujo join an elite team of weightlift champions from Orange Park High School with Roger French winning in 1984, Carlos Jefferson winning in 2008, Andrew Ratica and Jacob Abdel both in 2014 and Ratica again in 2015.
“I think Orange Park is the only school in the county to have two state champions the same year twice in the last five years,” said Macpherson. “That says a lot about the program.”
Clay won titles in 1983 with Bob Sweat and Kenneth White.
Sermons and Araujo went in as hard-fought region 3-1A champions and also district champions, but would be faced with challenges from around the state as well as familiar region faces to get the final title.
“It’s a great feeling to get through the districts and regions with strong lifts and then execute at state,” said Araujo, who was fifth in 2018. “It was a lot tenser being in the position of having to measure each lift to counter what the other guys are doing. We knew the Baker County kid was going to be right with me.”
Araujo, who ovewhelmingly won his two pre-state titles; with a 675 total at regions behind a 30 pound win over his closest challenger; Baker County’s Brandon Combs, knew that the state meet would bring the best of his competition despite the state list.
“I can only advise them based on numbers from districts, regions and season records,” said Macpherson. “But, we saw the Baker County kid at districts and regions and knew about where he was capable.”
Araujo would again battle with Combs for the state title and the deficit would be just five pounds as Araujo bench pressed at 345 to Combs’ 340. Both would tap out at 325 on the clean and jerk.
“My clean and jerk was a little more than his at region and I knew I had that as my ace in the hole,” said Araujo. “With a small advantage on the bench press, I just had to watch and wait. Coach Mac wanted me to go to 340.”
At regions, Araujo finished with a 335 clean and jerk to beat Combs.
“We knew we had more in the tank for the clean and jerk if needed,” said Macpherson.
Sermons, seeded with the second best lift total in the state after regions, was five pounds off the top seed total of 605.
“Our strategy, because he had been sick all week prior to the state meet, was to get on the podium (top six) early, then compete,” said Macpherson. “He needed to go big on the bench and let the other guys try to catch him.”
For Sermons, the difference came with a 325 bench press that bested his region total of 310 after a failed final lift attempt at 320. Two other lifters; James Eddings of Jay High and Tim Maxwell of Eastside also lifted 325 with Mason Manning, a region 3-1A foe from Fort White, besting the field at 335 to challenge the field. The state qualifying field had 11 lifters in the 300-plus pound bench press range.
“Our strategy was to go big and make the other guys think about their lifts,” said Sermons. “The clean and jerk would decide the title.”
Sermons and Macpherson strategized on the best move to grab the title after Sermons cleared 265 on his first lift.
“I had my gut instint to try 300 for a personal best, but coach Mac wanted to get a clean lift to be safe,” said Sermons, who was good at 265, then faulted at 275 before clearing 285. “I’m glad I listened to him.”
In the clean and jerk, where Sermons’ 290 at region was just third best in the state field, the challenge would be to lift enough to make his strong bench press hold. Sermons’ 285 held court despite two lifters over 300 pounds and three equalling his 285. Manning’s strong bench was nullified as he was only able to lift 245 in the clean and jerk with a final miss at 265.
Sermons had been injured last year after finishing third at the district meet.
Also in the 183 weight class, Ridgeview High’s Wesley Moore finished fourth with a 570 total; 300 on bench, 270 on clean and jerk.
At 119, Keystone Heights had Zach Glover with no lifts.
At 129, Keystone Heights had Holden Cummings-Knapp finish last with a 330 total; winner at 470.
At 139, Ridgeview’s Ralando Grey took seventh at 440 with Keystone Heights’ Ulysses Freed 12th at 425 and Jesse Donohue finishing 17th with no clean and jerk total. Winning total was 560.
At 154; won by Baker County’s Marcus Dialo at 595, Keystone Heights’ Colton Tibbets finished 12th at 470 and Ridgeview’s Jaiden Turner finished 15th at 460.
At 169, won by Baker County’s John Green at 610, Keystone Heights’ Mike Kirtley finished eighth at 530 with Clay’s Wilguens Dorvilus not starting despite qualifying from region.
At 219, won by Citrus’ Carson Fluegel at 665, Keystone Heights’ Colby Townsend finished seventh at 610 with teammate Josh Hughes also at 610.
At 238, won by Father Lopez’ Ryan Waddell at 690, Keystone Heights’ Carter Semione finished sixth at 640 with Orange Park’s Kendy Charles ninth at 625.
“Kendy got personal bests in both the bench and the clean and jerk at the state meet,” said Macpherson. “He is the ultimate teammate to continue to work hard despite being 20-30 pounds off the podium.”
In the heavyweight, won by Union County’s Agelu Nunu at 825 with a state record 525 bench press, Keystone Heights’ Dan Dodd finished seventh at 695.