For most Lady Fins, the weightlifting season is over. But Rylan Chapa, who is ranked seventh coming into the state championship, and Allie Brabenec, who is ranked 15th, are both advancing to the highest level of competition in Florida. The state championships will take place Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12-13, and will be held at Suwannee High School in Gainesville for the 1A and 2A classifications, which includes smaller schools such as Marathon High School, and at St. Cloud High School for the 3A class, or the bigger schools. It’s the first time the state championship has been split between two sites — to provide proper social distancing. 

The regional championships were held this past weekend at Lemon Bay High School in Englewood. Six MHS girls placed in the regional event: Rylan Chapa in first place, Allie Brabenec in fourth, Emily Suarez in fifth place, and Carly Childress, Clare Merryman and Sara Kratzert in sixth place. The MHS team tied for fourth place at the regional meet.

Rylan Chapa

“This season has been one of our best yet,” said coach Jessie Schubert. 

The team is the largest it has ever been, he said, and the Lady Fins are now two-time district champions, and have had the most girls place at regionals in the team’s history. 

Sophomore Aaliyah Torres is a fan of the sport and the team. 

“The girls have always been incredibly supportive and positive, and have been there to cheer my teammates and I on since day one,” Torres said. 

The team also credits Schubert. 

Senior Jilly McGuire said, “He has become more than just a coach to us all. He’s been in the weightroom every day ready to help in any way we may need, whether we were struggling mentally or physically.”

Lady Canes lift their way to state finals

The Coral Shores’ girls weightlifting team, under the coaching of Erin Hamilton, is sending a county-best four contestants to the FHSAA State Finals next weekend in Live Oak.  

Moving on from regional competition are junior Annavera Peixoto and seniors Alison Woltanski, Kaylee Stoky and Amber Stevens.

Lady Canes Weightlifting finalists: Weightlifters from Coral Shores High School who qualified for state finals, from left, Annavera Peixoto, Ali Woltanski, Amber Stevens and Kaylee Stoky. CONTRIBUTED

Peixoto, who competes in the lightest lifting division, finished third in her grouping with a bench press of 90 pounds and a clean-and-jerk of 90 pounds.  Woltanski, competing a division up, advanced with a bench of 95 pounds and a clean-and-jerk of 125 pounds.   

Stokey, lifting three classes higher, had a bench of 120 and a clean-and-jerk of 155 pounds.  Last to lift for the Lady Canes was Stevens, who distinguished herself with a bench of 165 pounds followed by a 155-pound clean-and-jerk to finish second in her division. 

“I was so proud of our girls. They really rose to the occasion,” said Hamilton. 

Woltanski, who joined the weightlifting team last year,  acknowledged she wasn’t sure how well she’d perform — much less be good enough to reach states. 

“Seeing all the girls on our team and other teams who all look so different and are all so strong is amazing. There really isn’t a ‘one-size- fits-all’ approach to the sport, and that’s why I love it so much,” Woltanski said. “Making it to states along with my co-captain, Amber Stevens, and teammates after vigorously refreshing the FHSAA webpage for hours was the best feeling, and I’m excited to have one last meet with my girls.”  

Stevens added, “There was a ton of improvement from the whole team and lots of old personal records broken.” 

The team, in only its third year of existence, had 16 members, of whom 13 advanced to regional competition. That group included Peixoto, Stevens, Woltanski, Stoky,  Samara Quintana, Diana Diaz, Makena Woolet-Stockton, Astrid Rivas, Madeline Langley, Emily Brown, Angelina Bello, Brooke Barrow and Juniper Crumb.

“The girls had an amazing season. I am so proud of all their hard work,” Hamilton said. “They dedicated much time and effort to gaining strength and lifting heavier weights. The changes I saw from last season to this season were remarkable. I also want to thank my two amazing assistant coaches, Jake Hurst and Debbie Lindsey. Their help was imperative this year with such a large group of girls.”

Coral Shores athletic director Rich Russell credited coaches and the team for bringing the program forward. 

“In talking to coaches from other programs, they are amazed that our third-year program has experienced so much success,” Russell said.  “I can’t say enough about coach Hamilton’s efforts.  She’s unrivaled as a trainer.  Beyond that, she and her staff have done an amazing job of motivating our young ladies while developing a model for ‘team spirit.’  

“Most importantly, in my eyes, our ladies have further developed some essential life skills,” he said. “At the end of the day, developing a healthier self-esteem, a better work ethic, goal orientation and coping skills should be the objective of every one of our programs. Those qualities are enduring; they will serve our ladies throughout their entire life.”

— Contributed