The Florida Keys put the rest of the state on notice this season, as three schools with relatively new girls weightlifting programs managed to secure medals and championships like they have been doing it forever. No longer is the panhandle Florida’s breeding ground for top lifters; the southernmost schools are quickly becoming where it’s at as far as girl power goes. All three teams had individual athletes qualify for states, and two schools brought home medals, given out to just the top six lifters in each weight class for the entire state.

Justice Lee
Sophomore, Marathon

When it comes to gym time, no one beats Marathon’s Justice Lee. In fact, nobody beats Lee in much at all. An athletic powerhouse, Lee showed the maturity and dedication necessary to make it to a level unmatched by any other female Keys lifter before her. Just a sophomore, Lee won double district gold, making light work of her competition all season at 183 pounds in both the Olympic and traditional events. She went on to claim double gold again at regionals, then secured two state championships, winning gold medals and making school history. Lee holds school records in all three lifts, and her records continue to fall as she breaks them again and again. Currently, she boasts a 150-pound snatch, 190-pound clean and jerk, and 180-pound bench.

Sierra Earnhardt
Senior, Marathon

Marathon’s Sierra Earnhardt claimed double district gold at 119 pounds this season, then won the regional championship in traditional lifts with a runner-up medal in Olympic. Earnhardt brought home bronze at states, winning third place in the Olympic event, and was eighth in traditional. Though she has a season of eligibility remaining, Earnhardt elected to graduate early, but not before leaving her mark in Marathon weightlifting.

Ella Dunn
Junior, Marathon

Marathon’s Ella Dunn made her second trip to the FHSAA 1A State Championships this season after claiming two district runner-up medals, a regional championship in traditional lifts and a runner-up medal in Olympic in her 110-lb. weight class. Dunn went on to bring home a fifth-place medal in Olympic lifts and broke into the top 10 in traditional, finishing seventh in the event. 

Mikkel Ross
Senior, Marathon

Mikkel Ross brought home a third-place district medal in Olympic lifts and a second place in traditional in the 129-lb. class. Ross went on to capture the same titles in the events at regionals. Her totals at regionals qualified her for her second FHSAA State Championship appearance in as many years. 

Sabrina Schofield
Junior, Marathon

Marathon’s Sabrina Schofield won a district title at 193 pounds in traditional lifting and a runner-up medal in Olympic. At regionals, she lifted enough to secure a fifth-place spot in Olympic lifts, which gave her a spot at states for her first big show.

Ayme Maradiaga
Sophomore, Marathon

Sophomore strongwoman Ayme Maradiaga managed to bring home a sixth-place medal at districts in both lifting events despite being the Fins’ second lifter at 101 pounds. She went on to place seventh at regionals in traditional and 10th in Olympic, qualifying for states.

Claire Boysen
Senior, Key West

Key West’s Claire Boysen won double district runner-up medals this season, qualifying for regionals in both events. The senior represented well in the 190-lb. class, taking sixth place in traditional lifts and ninth in Olympics at the regional event.

Dazmine Jenkins 
Senior, Key West 

Key West’s top lifter at 154 pounds brought home a variety of hardware in her senior campaign. Jenkins was the district runner-up in Olympic lifts and went on to take the same place in regionals with strong enough lifts to qualify for states. In the traditional category, she was fourth at districts and seventh at regionals.

Jennille Arias
Sophomore, Coral Shores 

Hurricane Jennille Arias won the district championship at 169 pounds in both events this season. She then placed second at regionals in traditional and third in Olympic, qualifying for states in both events. Arias brought home a pair of medals from the state championships, placing second in traditional lifts and sixth in Olympic. Just a sophomore, Arias has all the potential to bring home the gold next season.

Julia Rusch
Freshman, Coral Shores

The 101-lb. weight class was stacked with Keys lifters this season, and Coral Shores’ Julia Rusch held her own, bringing home a third-place medal in traditional and fifth in Olympic lifts from districts. She then claimed sixth in traditional and seventh in Olympic at regionals. Her lifts in traditional were strong enough to qualify for states as just a freshman.

Rachel Rusch
Junior, Coral Shores

Rachel Rusch won a district championship in traditional and was the runner-up in Olympic at 110 pounds this season. At regionals, she was sixth in Olympic and third in traditional, qualifying for the state championships in both events.

Sydney Eysenbach
Junior, Coral Shores

Sydney Eysenbach won double district titles this season, competing in the unlimited category. She brought home a third-place medal from regionals in traditional and a fourth in Olympic, qualifying for the state championships in both events. 

Vanessa Gabriel 
Sophomore, Coral Shores

Coral Shores had two talented lifters in the unlimited category this season, and Vanessa Gabriel was one of them. At districts, she claimed the runner-up medal in traditional lifts and third place in Olympic. At regionals, she was third in Olympic and fourth in traditional and earned a spot at states in both events.

Kali Gomer
Junior, Coral Shores

Coral Shores junior Kali Gomer was the district runner-up in Olympic and traditional lifts at 139 pounds this season. She went on to secure second place in Olympic and seventh in traditional at regionals and qualified for the state meet with Olympic lifts.

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.