Eagle, Leopard lifters share county crown

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

iWEEKI WACHEE – Coming into Wednesday’s boys weightlifting county meet, there was much uncertainty about just which team was the county’s finest.
By the time things wrapped up in the Weeki Wachee gym, there remained plenty of confusion. In an unprecedented turn of events, both Hernando and Springstead tied atop the team standings with 64 points apiece.
With no set protocol for breaking the deadlock, those that remained as the final numbers were crunched were left to ponder what to do. Not that there weren’t plenty of tongue-in-cheek suggestions: a lift-off, a pickup basketball game, the heaviest lifter from each team even volunteered to settle matters in a footrace.
In the end, the coaches simply decided that there would be co-champions for the first time in the history of the county meet, which was first held in 1999.
“It’s kind of crazy, with all the points and all the lifts and all the pounds lifted today, it ended in a tie,” Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. “But it’s cool. It’s good for both teams.”
The Eagles, who came in as defending champions, dominated in the lighter weights, accumulating 54 of their points from 119-199 pounds. Bradley Solari won at 119, benching 155 pounds and hoisting 135 in the clean-and-jerk for a 290 total. Jordan Gilmore added a first at 129 (175-155—325), as did Hunter Weaver at 139 (180-180—360), Andro Segura at 154 (260-195—455) and Alec Maratea at 183 (290-195—485).
“We got five first-placers, which was good. I was hoping to get five,” Garofano said. “Two out of the five that won were freshmen, and then one was a sophomore and one was a junior. So, four out of the five guys that won are coming back. And then we’ll have (Charles) Monzo next year, too, who was a winner last year. So, the future’s good, and obviously, that’s a good thing. We only lose about three or four seniors, so I’m excited about next year after today.
“We head to districts next week. We had some good totals today, some guys making their personal bests. So, hopefully we continue to climb and get better next week when it counts for regions.”
Just a sophomore, Segura was the meet’s lone repeat champion. He won by 25 pounds this time around, after he took first on a tiebreaker last year as he was the lightest competitor to post the top total of 370 in the weight class.
“I didn’t get any new PRs (personal records), but hopefully next week for districts I’ll get five pounds more on my bench and my clean-and-jerk,” Segura said. “I just got to work harder, definitely, to get those five pounds more.”
Hernando was the only team to score in every weight class. Josh Vonada took first at 169 (220-235—455), as did Colin Pagels at 219, with a 290-270—560 performance, and Raymond Loeffler posted a 300-215—515 for the victory at heavyweight.
Hernando's Rodney Owens competing in the clean-and-jerk Wednesday at Weeki Wachee. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Max Prindle’s second-place 260-240—500 at heavyweight allowed the Leopards to secure 12 pivotal points, while Springstead went scoreless at both 238 and heavyweight.
“Going into the season, we don’t have any seniors. So, for the kids to work hard and do all the things they did, and accomplish going up every week, that’s what you strive for. I’m very pleased with the performance of the kids,” Hernando head coach Mark Griffith said. “A tie is kind of like kissing your sister, but it beats coming in second.
“Most of our kids are football players, so it gives us something to go into the season looking forward to. I think the kids got a little taste of it. What I told them, ‘We need to come in here and try to establish that weightlifting culture at Hernando High School.’ We mounted a record board in the weight room of all the past champions and all this, and so now the kids have something tangible they can look at, and strive to match and beat.”
Central’s Dominique Walker finished first at 199 with a meet-best 315-255—570, and teammate Kelvontae Roberts earned top honors at 238 (295-225—520). The Bears scored 50 points to end up in third. Weeki Wachee followed with 16 and Nature Coast scored a 15.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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