Sunlake sends four to state weightlifting meet

The move to a more competitive division this season hasn’t fazed the top members of the Sunlake Seahawks girls weightlifting team.

They’ve embraced the challenge of moving from Class 1A to Class 2A.

Juniors Hayley Parks (169-pound weight class) and Caroline Winstead (139), and seniors Brianna Anderson (183) and Ajani Bell (unlimited) each will compete in the Florida High School Athletic Association’s (FHSAA) Class 2A Girls Weightlifting Finals on Feb. 6 in Kissimmee.

From left, Sunlake’s Brianna Anderson, Ajani Bell, Caroline Winstead, Katelyn Veddern and Hayley Parks recently competed in the Class 2A-Region 7 Girls Weightlifting Meet at Charlotte High on Jan. 20. Anderson, Bell, Winstead and Parks advanced to the Class 2A Girls Weightlifting Finals on Feb. 6 in Kissimmee. (Courtesy of Denise Garcia)

From left, Sunlake’s Brianna Anderson, Ajani Bell, Caroline Winstead, Katelyn Veddern and Hayley Parks recently competed in the Class 2A-Region 7 Girls Weightlifting Meet at Charlotte High on Jan. 20. Anderson, Bell, Winstead and Parks advanced to the Class 2A Girls Weightlifting Finals on Feb. 6 in Kissimmee.
(Courtesy of Denise Garcia)

Parks, Winstead and Anderson all claimed individual titles in the Class 2A-Region 7 meet at Charlotte High on Jan. 20. Bell finished second in her weight class at the regional.

Anderson led the way for the Seahawks with a combined total of 375 pounds from the bench press and clean-and-jerk, followed by Bell (330), Parks (325) and Winstead (285).

Seahawks head coach Denise Garcia wasn’t the least bit surprised by the results.

“I knew if they hit their (bench press) lifts and clean-and-jerk that it was going to happen,” Garcia said. “They all have good work ethics. It comes from their desire; they’re passionate and they’re dedicated.”

Part of that dedication includes following proper practice habits, healthy eating and getting plenty of rest.

Having the “right frame of mind” and “lifting with confidence” are other factors in the girls’ achievements, Garcia said.

In advance of the state finals, Garcia has kept track of weightlifting results of competitors from other schools to use as a benchmark for her squad.

“You have to see what everybody else is doing to see where you should go, knowing, ‘This girl does this or this girl does that,’” she said. “You kind of have to do your homework to set goals.”

Out of the 10 different weight classes at the state meet, each class will feature 20 individuals. Based on qualifying results, Anderson is ranked No.1, Parks is ranked No. 5, Bell is No. 13 and Winstead is No. 20 in each of their respective weight classes.

“I’m hoping they’ll all do better than where they’re (currently) at,” Garcia said about the girls’ bench press and clean-and-jerk results. “The competition is very hard.”

Garcia’s motto for each weightlifter is “be better the next day.”

In preparation for the looming event, Garcia said practices have been “much more intense.”

While practices aren’t necessarily longer, there’s more of a “sense of urgency in the weight room, with a focus on lifting shorter reps of heavier weights,” the coach said.

After the conclusion of the state meet, Garcia said the team is taking a two-to-three week break before hitting the weight room again for the 2016-2017 season.

Due to FHSAA bylaws, the Seahawks coach won’t be able to provide training during the sport’s offseason months.

However, Garcia said Sunlake’s more experienced weightlifters will help guide the team’s underclassman along during open gym sessions.

“They know what they’re doing. They know it’s a year-round sport, and that goes to any sport,” Garcia said. “It’s not something you can just pick up and go, ‘OK, I think I want to be competitive, but I haven’t done it in eight months.’ You just can’t do that.”

Published February 3, 2016 

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