At the state competition in Kissimmee, Florida, coach Jessie Schubert was more nervous than his student, Rachel Torres-Brown of Marathon High School.

“I wasn’t nervous for ME,” he clarified, “I was nervous for her.”

After missing her first “lift” — a clean and jerk movement — of 170 pounds, she loaded an extra 10 on the dumbbell before attempting 180 pounds. Apparently, she knew exactly what she was doing.

“She got it,” Schubert said, satisfaction still ringing in his voice after the Feb. 5 second-place win in the 183-pound weight class.

Rachel also benched 170 pounds, a personal best, during the competition.

It was a first, though, for both Schubert and Rachel. She learned about creating a team sport from scratch at a new school. He learned about coaching girls.

Rachel moved to the Keys from Panama City Beach just this year, as a 19-year-old senior. She said she was “persistent” about creating a team that ultimately included three other weightlifters — Oriana Mendez, Sydney Konrath and Jordan Roney. (All three of the girls did very well in competitions this year.)

“I didn’t realize how much I had improved this year until I started looking back at my numbers,” Rachel said.

For Schubert, a lifelong weightlifter, it was a chance to learn about how the sport is played at the high school level, and a chance to coach a girls’ team.

“The girls were amazing, dedicated and motivated,” Schubert said. “I had so much fun doing it.”

He and the students spent a lot of time in the gym building up the complementary muscles with squats and military presses and ‘lat’ pulldowns. Weightlifting — like wrestling, swimming or track and field — is slightly different than a standard team sport. While they enjoy the camaraderie, Schumbert said, each member is striving to beat an individual record. “It’s you against you,” he said. “But all of the girls were proud of each other’s achievements.”

Rachel agrees.

“I don’t look at weightlifting as being about strength. I like to ‘PR,’ better myself,” she said, referring to athletes’ abbreviation of Personal Record. “It’s something I will always do.”

The girls’ weightlifting season runs from November through early February. There are plans for another girls’ season and already 10 male students have signed up to form a boys’ weightlifting team.

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