By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
OCALA — Emily Schulte was so close to a medal at last year’s state meet, but the Lemon Bay High School weightlifter was five pounds away from the podium.
This year, she made it her ultimate goal to make sure she’d stand among the best in Florida.
Schulte placed fourth in the 119-pound weight class at the Class 1A state meet Friday afternoon at Belleview High School, posting a bench press of 135 pounds and a clean-and-jerk of 130 pounds for a 265 total. When she found out the result, she couldn’t hold back tears as she hugged her teammates.
The senior said she didn’t expect to finish so high, especially after missing her second clean-and-jerk and third bench.
“Not after those two,” Schulte said. “I was hoping my total would be better because of the bench I’m kind of stuck at, but I’m happy I ended up where I did.”
Savanna Galloway also medaled for the Manta Rays, finishing fifth at 154 after benching 165 pounds and nailing a clean-and-jerk of 155 pounds for a 320 total. The duo of Schulte and Galloway led Lemon Bay to a 12th-place finish with five points, tied with Booker and LaBelle. River Ridge won the team title with a score of 29.
Teammate Kacee Nelson also was right behind Schulte in the 119 class, finishing with a 255 total to finish in 10th. Macayla Marinola, who was seeded sixth in the 129 class, missed out on a medal with an eighth-place finish after posting a 290 total, 10 pounds short of the podium.
But at the end of the day, Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell was pleased with his team and pointed to last year’s experience in the state competition as a big reason the Manta Rays were successful this time around.
“They were nervous last year. This year still to an extent, but I think it was a big asset to them having been here,” Southwell said. “And I think this environment of being in a high school gym that they’re used to lifting in added some comfort.”
Port Charlotte finished tied for 28th with two points, led by Miranda Eckhoff’s fifth-place finish. Eckhoff finished with a total of 320 pounds — 165 bench and 155 clean-and-jerk — and actually finished tied for third but lost the three-way tie due to a heavier weigh-in.
Eckhoff, who finished second at state a year ago, had a shot to win it all this season. But she missed her final bench press of 170 and then her final two clean-and-jerks of 170.
That 170 clean-and-jerk has been her nemesis this season, even causing her to go to the hospital at one point when she dropped the bar on her leg.
“I hurt myself doing 170 (two months ago) and I told myself I’d never do 170 again, but I said ‘let me just try.’ I placed and I did the best I could,” Eckhoff said.
Although no other Pirate medaled, coach David Hoffer was pleased with his team.
Kaelyn Griffiths (154) and Emma Pritchett (129) both set personal-records on their bench presses and clean-and-jerks while going 6-for-6 on all their lifts. Griffths benched 145 and clean-and-jerked 155 to finish tied for eighth with a 300 total while Pritchett posted a 12th-place finish with a 275 total, benching 135 with a 140 clean-and-jerk.
Both return next year as seniors.
“That’s all really a testament to their commitment to what we’ve been doing. I’m really proud of them for that.” Hoffer said.
CLASS 1A CHAMPIONSHIP
1. River Ridge 29; 2. Nature Coast 17; 3. Lake Weir 16; 4. Clay 14; 5. Baker County 12; 6. Mosley 11; T-7. Lecanto 9, Zephyrhills 9, Fort White 7, Leesburg 7, Union 7; T-12. Lemon Bay 5, Booker 5, LaBelle 5, Pine Crest 5, St. Edwards 5; T-17. Altha 4, Choctawatchee 4, Eustis 4, Jay 4, Paxon 4; T-22. Archbishop McCarthy 3, Choctaw 3, Interlachen 3, North Bay Haven 3, Rocky Bayou 3, West Florida 3; T-28. Port Charlotte 2, Bradford 2, Gulliver Prep 2, Umatilla 2; T-32. Avon Park 1, Poinciana 1, Ribault 1, Sebring 1.
101: 1. Crystal Gwinn (RR) 135-130-265, 2. Kendra Mathes (SE) 120-130-250, 3. Katelyn Kirves (RR) 115-125-240; 110: 1. Callista Durrett (RR) 145-180-325, 2. Tylah Brooks (LW) 135-140-275, 3. Jessica Weekley (C) 120-140-260; 119: 1. Alisha Dudeck (RR) 150-145-295, 2. Ryah Davis (BC) 130-155-285, 3. Christine McNeal (LW) 135-130-265; 129: Ashleigh Dean (CL) 165-175-340, 2. Angelica Cuellar (L) 165-160-325, 3. Damiyyha Kirksey (BC) 155-160-315; 139: 1. Samantha Traudt (NC) 170-180-350, 2. Sofia Caro (PC) 165-160-325, 3. Haylee Watson (J) 165-155-320. 154: 1. Daeja Williamson (M) 170-200-370, 2. Rachel Clemmer (L) 170-180-350, 3. Josie Hall (A) 170-170-340; 169: 1. Erykah Murray (C) 195-200-395, 2. Alexis Evangelista (LC) 170-175-345, 3. Seriah Brokenborou (E) 155-180-335; 183: 1. Diazzarrary Velasquez (P) 195-170-365, 2. Jessica Guadarrama (Z) 175-175-350, 3. Whitney Lewis (PX) 170-160-330; 199: 1. Brandy McCoy (U) 265-215-480, 2. Christian McKay (B) 230-180-410, 3. Sydney Hesterhagen (RR) 185-175-360; UNL: 1. Kacey Carter (FW) 215-205-420, 2. Jovie Miller (NC) 210-210-420, 3. Harrison Mancke (LC) 210-195-4