By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
KISSIMMEE — The 2016 boys weightlifting season was everything Alex Jen thought it would be.
The North Port High School junior entered the year with no competitive weightlifting experience, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
His performance at the Class 2A State Championships Saturday was all his coach could ask for.
“I’m so proud of him,” North Port coach Wayne Skelton said. “He works so hard. He comes after school, stays and does what ever he can do in 45 minutes. I always have to tell him to leave because the football kids are coming in. He puts in the work.”
Jen had six successful lifts between the bench press and clean and jerk rounds. His best scores of 205 and 170 pounds, respectively, were both good enough for he personal bests. He finished the day in seventh place, only five pounds shy of reaching the podium in the 119-pound class.
“At regionals I struggled at 190, but today it was easier,” Jen said. “I didn’t think I was going to states, but look where I am now. I want to place next year. Especially since it’s my senior year. I want to place, or at least break some school records.”
Skelton says he could see Jen competing as a 139-pounder next season, with the likeliness that he can improve his scores to 230 and 220.
Jen was the only Bobcat to compete on Saturday as Kawika Barnes was forced to scratch due to injury. Barnes, who competes at 139, has been nursing a shoulder injury all season, according to Skelton, and made the decision Friday that he wouldn’t be able to compete.
“He’s been holding together, trying to minimize the damage to his shoulder all year,” Skelton said. “He did 260 in a Saturday practice last week. I think — he’s not a complainer — so I think that bothered him. We went as long as we could, and yesterday he couldn’t go. He understood, though. It was his decision as well.”
Barnes was a state qualifier the previous two seasons. He finished in 13th place with a total of 405 pounds in 2015.
Qualifying weightlifters: 1
Lifter Class Finish
Alex Jen 119 7th
CLASS 2A STATE WEIGHLIFTING
at Kissimmee Civic Center
1. (tie) Choctaw, Spruce Creek 19; 3. Flagler Palm Coast 14; 4. Bantram Trail 13; 4. New Smyrna Beach 13; 6. Fort Walton Beach 12.
27. (tie) Charlotte 2; 31. (tie) Port Charlotte 1.
119: Adrian Acevedo (Pace) 235-225-460. 129: Kendrick Thomas (Flagler Palm Coast) 260-235-495. 139: Justin Scott (Choctaw) 300-275-575. 154: Michael Branuelos (Colonial) 325-265-590. 169: Slade Villalobos (Spruce Creek) 350-335-685. 183: Dante Collier (Spruce Creek) 335-340-676. 199: Javon Wilson (Lake Region) 330-370-700. 219: Alex Brousseau (Wellington) 365-375-740. 238: Graylon Johnson (Choctaw) 425-315-740. HWT: Michael Astrologo (Flagler Palm Coast) 455-350-805.