Eleven Keys lifters, including Marathon’s Mikkel Ross, left, Ella Dunn and Justice Lee Isom, will put their strength to the test at the FHSAA State Championships next weekend. BARRY GAUKEL/Keys Weekly

Sophomore Justice Lee made Monroe County history on Feb. 17 when she won both the traditional and Olympic events at the FHSAA 1A State Championships in Lakeland. Though Coral Shores’ Julian Juvier struck double gold in 2023, Lee is the first female weightlifter from Monroe County to accomplish the enormous feat. 

She claimed her first gold in the Olympic category after topping her regional lifts by 10 pounds in both the snatch and clean and jerk. Her 190-lb. clean and jerk gave her the momentum heading into the traditional event, where she led her closest competitor by 10 pounds and distanced herself by 15 pounds from a North Florida athlete who was capable of matching Lee’s bench press and possibly stealing a win in the traditional event. Lee then benched 175 pounds, her best in competition so far. When added to her clean and jerk, the lift gave her a second state title. 

Lee was ecstatic with her win, but said she isn’t going to take any time off to revel in her accomplishments.

“It feels amazing to make history, especially for the town I love,” she told the Weekly. Though confident in her ability and training, Lee said she wasn’t without some worries headed into the state meet. “My biggest concern going into states was all of the pressure I had on my shoulder,” she explained. “Next for me as a weightlifter is to hopefully get some state records.”

Next up for the multisport athlete will be track, where she competes in throwing events, followed by spring football. Lee plays fullback and linebacker for the Fins’ varsity tackle team in addition to her female flag football team, which also recently won a championship.

The medal is a testament to the growth of an already-dominant Marathon girls weightlifting program, led by coach Jessie Schubert. Lee’s are the second and third gold medals to return to Marathon in the last three years, with Rylan Chapa claiming the individual snatch title in 2022.

Coral Shores’ Jennille Arias also had a phenomenal showing in the 169-lb. class. Tied for fourth heading into the meet, Arias was determined to reach the podium and secure a medal. 

Coach Erin Hamilton knew Arias was within reach, saying, “When Jennille puts her mind to something, she fights to the end.” 

And fight she did. Arias added five pounds to her clean and jerk and 10 to her bench to claim a silver medal in the traditional event. The sophomore sensation won a second medal earlier in the competition, claiming sixth place in the Olympic category after an initial eighth-place seeding. A 15-pound increase in her snatch lift ensured she returned to Tavernier with two medals around her neck. 

With two medals from Lee and another two from Arias, Monroe County was already looking great in the eyes of the state, but another pair of lifters added to the medal count. 101-lb. Ella Dunn brought home a fifth-place medal in the Olympic category and claimed a seventh-place finish in traditional, just one place away from a second medal for the mighty junior. Sierra Earnhardt, also a junior but likely to graduate a year early, won bronze in the 119-lb. Olympic category. Earnhardt finished eighth in the traditional event.

Photos contributed

Extra media day pics by BARRY GAUKEL/Keys Weekly

Tracy McDonald
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.