The dominance of the Sunlake girls weightlifting program remained apparent at the annual Sunshine Athletic Conference (East) Awards.
Seahawks coach Denise Garcia won her second consecutive SAC East Girls’ Weightlifting Coach of the Year Award, and 10 of her lifters were named to the 2016-2017 SAC East All-Conference team, announced on March 6.
A mix of youth and experience, Sunlake won all of their Eastside Conference meets, placed second at the Class 2A Regionals and had three top-10 finishers at the state finals.
The season also saw a few milestones for the girls’ program, including its first 400-pound lifter.
Senior Micaiah Long set that mark at the 2017 Class 2A state meet, with a 215-pound bench press and a 185-pound clean-and-jerk, placing third in the unlimited division.
The previous school record was a 385-pound total, set in the 2015-2016 season by Brianna Anderson, who won a state title in the 183-pound division.
Long, a first-year lifter in the Sunlake program, added a combined 65 pounds to her lifts since the first meet of the season.
Her strategy? More lifting.
“I just worked hard,” Long said. “I went in and worked out more, got extra reps in.”
“She started at 335 (pounds), and she improved with her work ethic,” Garcia said. “She put so much into it. She had the passion to do it, she had a goal she set for herself, and she was going to do it.”
Garcia, too, credits Long for being coachable throughout the season.
“She listens and takes everything I tell her,” the coach said. “She’s like a sponge.”
In the meantime, Long won’t soon forget the weightlifting experience.
“It was exciting. I accomplished my goals,” said Long, who’s also on the Sunlake track and field team.
“I was shy, and I think it brought my personality out.”
The 400-pound feat wasn’t the only Sunlake record shattered during the season, however.
In the 101-pound class, senior Shelby Lewis set a school and conference record with a 130-pound clean-and-jerk; she later finished ninth in the state meet.
Without Lewis and Long, Garcia’s 10th season could prove more challenging, as the Seahawks also lose two other state qualifiers in seniors Hailey Parks (sixth place in 183-pound division) and Caroline Winstead (19th in 139-pound division.)
For Garcia, it’s no matter.
With five non-seniors representing Sunlake on the All-Conference list, the Seahawks coach isn’t concerned about a possible rebuilding-type year for the 2017-2018 season.
Instead, she relishes the task.
“I coach who’s in front of me,” Garcia said. “My job is to give them the confidence, to show them the skills, and then we go from there.”
“I have confidence in my girls,” she added.
One lifter to watch out for next season, Garcia said, is freshman Antoinette Farmer.
Competing in the 183-pound division, Farmer increased her lifting totals from 195 pounds to 285 pounds over the course of the season.
Garcia heaped high praise on Farmer, noting she could one day surpass Brianna Anderson’s totals.
“She’s hungry,” Garcia said. “To have somebody like that—the whole package—it’s rare to find that.”
2016-2017 SAC East All-Conference Girls’ Weightlifting
Coach of the Year: Denise Garcia, Sunlake High
Athlete of the Year: Jessica Guadarrama, Zephyrhills High, junior
101-pound: Shelby Lewis, Sunlake High, senior
110-pound: Savannah Sutton, Zephyrhills High, sophomore
119-pound: Lizbeth Estrada, Zephyrhills High, senior
129-pound: Loah Castro, Sunlake High, sophomore
139-pound: Caroline Winstead, Sunlake High, sophomore
154-pound: Tricia Clifton, Wiregrass Ranch High, senior
169-pound: Alysa Kremer, Land O’ Lakes High, freshman
183-pound: Jessica Guadarrama, Zephyrhills High, junior
199-pound: Yarixa Casasnovas, Sunlake High, junior
Unlimited: Micaiah Long, Sunlake High, senior
101-pound: Sara First, Zephyrhills High, senior
110-pound: Maria Espinal, Sunlake High, sophomore
119-pound: Caitlyn Elling, Pasco High, sophomore
129-pound: Mariah Melendez, Sunlake High, sophomore
139-pound: Isabella Garcia, Sunlake High, freshman
154-pound: Katelyn Ortiz, Sunlake High, senior
169-pound: Veronica Salazar, Land O’ Lakes High, sophomore
183-pound: Hailey Parks, Sunlake High, senior
199-pound: Tatyana Cole, Zephyrhills High, junior
Unlimited: Abby Shaffer, Zephyrhills High School, sophomore
Honorable Mention: Abigail Monticco, Wesley Chapel, junior
Published March 15, 2017