ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR GIRLS WEIGHTLIFTING IN POSTSEASON COMPETITION

Vanessa Gabriel was the Hurricanes’ dual event winner in the Unlimited weight class on Jan. 17. DOUG FINGER/Keys Weekly

On Jan. 17, Keys weightlifters participated in one final regular season meet at Key West High School. Marathon won both the Olympic and traditional events, with Coral Shores coming in second and Key West taking third place. All three teams saw big gains, and if their lifts on the 17th were any indication, lots of hardware should be headed home next week.

Key West had the home gym advantage and two athletes earned wins. The Conchs had success in the 154 lb. class with Dazmine Jenkins securing wins in both events. Claire Boysen won the traditional event at 199 lbs. with a 150-lb. bench press that secured the win. 

Marathon’s Ella Dunn won both events at 101 lbs. Dunn was a state qualifier in 2023 and is poised to make it far again this season. Also winning double events for the Fins was Sierra Earnhardt. Earnhardt has consistently been in third place overall at local meets using the Sinclair formula, which calculates athletes’ pound-for-pound results. In the 119 lb. class, Mikkel Ross has dominated this season, surpassing her own weight in all three lifts and winning her weight class consistently. Ross was the Sinclair overall winner last week and was the Keys’ only state medalist in 2023. Also dominating her weight class was Justice Lee, whose 185-lb. clean and jerk helped secure a double win and earned her a school record, to boot. Lee made the trip to states last season as a freshman and looks good to go again this season with plenty of promise to secure a medal this year. 

Marathon had two single event winners. Ava Merryman won the traditional event in the 139 lb. class but did not participate in Olympic. Sabrina Schofield won the 199 lb. class in the Olympic event.

Coral Shores had a trio of double winners at the meet. Rachel Rusch registered a solid 105 lbs. in the clean and jerk competition, which helped her win big in the 110 lb. class. Jennille Arias had dual wins in the 169 lb. class and Vanessa Gabriel won both events in the unlimited class. Kali Gomer came away with a win in the Olympic event with the help of a snatch lift that bested the rest of her weight class by 25 lbs. 

Districts will run from Jan. 25 to 27, with regional contestants being named once all 16 FHSAA districts complete their championships. 

Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.