After a long season of competition, Keys lifters headed to district meets last week in hopes of bringing home the gold. 

As a relatively new sport, scoring and moving on in competitive weightlifting can be confusing. Marathon coach Jessie Schubert clarified exactly what to expect in the postseason. 

“There are four districts that compete to go to regionals. The top eight lifters in each weight class, with a maximum of two per team per weight class, compete at districts,” he said. “Regional competitions take the top 20 from districts. So, to advance to regionals, an athlete must be in the top 20 of those 32.”

The only athlete to move on automatically, both from districts to regionals and regionals to the state meet, is the first-place winner in each weight class. Because of this, there are 19 at-large bids in each weight class, but according to Schubert, “it’s almost a given that anyone placing second or third at district and regional competitions will move on.”

Key West was first to attend its district meet, participating in the FHSAA District 16 2A championships on Jan. 25 at Dr. Joaquin Garcia High School in Lake Worth. The Conchs took third place in Olympic lifts as a team and fifth in traditional out of seven teams. Claire Boysen was Key West’s biggest winner, securing the district runner-up medal in both lifting events. Dazmine Jenkins (154 lbs.) and Youma Midy (unlimited) took second-place medals in Olympic lifts with Jenkins coming in fourth and Midy winning third in traditional lifting. Shylo Sanchez (139 lbs.) and Adelaide Sir (183 lbs.) both scored fourth in both events. Other top-four finishers were Neslo Atilla (129 lbs.) and Alexandra Konecna (119 lbs.), who were fourth in Olympic lifts. 

Marathon and Coral Shores compete in the 1A classification, which took place on Jan. 27 at Doctors Charter High School in Miami. Both teams fared extremely well, with Marathon winning the district championship in traditional lifts. Coral Shores was the runner up. In Olympic lifting, the Fins and ’Canes placed second and third, respectively. 

Coral Shores had a pair of double district champs in Jennille Arias (169 lbs.) and Sydney Eysenbach (unlimited). The pair automatically qualifies for regionals and a chance for a spot at the state championships in February. Rachel Rusch (110 lbs.) won the district gold in traditional and a spot in the regional lineup. Other top performers in traditional were runners-up Kali Gomer (139 lbs.), Madison Tillman (169 lbs.) and Vanessa Gabriel (unlimited). Julia Rusch (101 lbs.) and Leticia Lima (119 lbs.) placed third and Elizabeth Giordano (110 lbs.) came in fourth. The ’Canes also had high performers in Olympic lifts. Rachel Rusch and Gomer took home silver medals. Tillman and Gabriel struck bronze and Melanie Moc (139 lbs.) was fourth.

Marathon can now claim four district champions this season. Justice Lee (183 lbs.) won both events and a pair of regional spots. At 119 lbs., Sierra Earnhardt won the gold in traditional plus a silver in Olympic. Ava Merryman (139 lbs.), Marquisha Abraham (154 lbs.) and Sabrina Schofield (199 lbs.) are the reigning district champs in traditional lifts. Schofield won silver in Olympic and Abraham won bronze. Ella Dunn (101 lbs.) had a pair of second-place performances. Rilynn Richards (110 lbs.) came in second in traditional and fourth in Olympic. Mikkel Ross (129 lbs.) was second in traditional and third in Olympic. Elise Dolton (154 lbs.) and Harlie Daniels (119 lbs.) both won silver in traditional and fourth in Olympic. Cami Wrinn (139 lbs.) won bronze in Olympic and fourth place in traditional. Samantha Schofield (183 lbs.) brought home a pair of fourth place medals while Ella Evans (129 lbs.) claimed a third place medal in traditional. Elizabeth Piper (unlimited) came in fourth in traditional lifts. 

Key West’s regional qualifiers will chalk up on Feb. 3 at Sebastian River High School while Coral Shores and Marathon participate at Lemon Bay on the same day. Anyone qualifying for the big show will travel to Lakeland Feb. 16 and 17 for the FHSAA State 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.