Program excelling under Coach Erin Hamilton

Laira Gomer competes during a weight lift at Coral Shores High School. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Six Coral Shores girls weightlifters will test their strength this weekend as they travel north for state championships at Port St. Joe High School.

A weightlifting program is excelling in its fourth year under Coach Erin Hamilton. On Jan. 22, the weightlifting took to districts at Miami CrossFit. There, they came away with the District 16-1A championship.

Among the lifters heading to state championships are Annavera Peixoto, who returns to the competition for the second straight year, Makena Woolet-Stockton, Hailey Cooper, Laira Gomer, Jannille Arias and Sydney Eysenbach. Hamilton will drive the athletes roughly 10 hours north for the state competition. 

“It’s exciting to see so many girls excelling,” Hamilton said. 

What started with eight weightlifters in the program’s first year grew through the years to around 18 competitors in 2021 and 30 this year. Hamilton said the team was able to fill almost every weight class during competition. 

“It’s been such an amazing progression,” Hamilton said. 

Normal weightlifting competitions in Florida tally a competitor’s bench and clean-and-jerk scores. This year, however, the state added snatch as a separate event. In snatch, the lifter lifts the bar as high as possible and pulls herself under it in a squat position. Hamilton said the weightlifting team is sending a few competitors to partake in the snatch. 

Hamilton said the sport of weightlifting gives competitors self-confidence. Weightlifting competitions usually see competitors rooting on each other. 

“Everyone is cheering for everyone,” Hamilton said. “Even if you’re competing against someone, you’re still rooting for them to hit their lift. When someone is struggling on the bench, you’ll have everyone in that weight class cheering them on, no matter what school they’re at. It’s an engaging and thrilling experience.” 

Teams in divisions 1A, 2A and 3A will compete at states at Port St. Joe High School from Feb. 10-12. The Class 1A competition will take place Saturday, Feb. 12.

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Jim McCarthy is a northerner who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since his graduation from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3 years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. Behind every community is resiliency and resolve in difficult times. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim serves as President of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. “It’s a group that lives by the motto ‘Service Above Self,’” he says. “We’ve done service projects at the Tavernier nursing home, sitting down and socializing with residents. “We’ve also supplied cameras to young students exploring the Keys ecosystem.” Jim loves sports, family and time exploring underneath the water depths.