The Kissimmee Civic Center was filled with cheers and clanging of weights for the FHSAA Finals Saturday, but for the schools from Spring Hill and Brooksville it was the same old song; so close, but nothing to show for it.
On a day where the best in the state were recognized, Nature Coast, Springstead, and Hernando were all represented, hoping to have a lifter atop the podium.
This year, despite a solid showing, no lifter medaled individually, meaning no team could even register a score.
The closest to the top was Nature Coast's Kiana Espinal. The Lady Shark senior actually tied for fifth place in the 169-pound division with a bench press of 155 pounds, and a clean-and-jerk of 170, her 325 total putting her in a three-way tie with Port Orange-Spruce Creek’s Karissa Lacy and Tetisheri Menna of Oveido-Hagerty.
The tiebreaker goes to the person who weighed the least at the official weigh-in, which placed Lacy in fifth and Menna in the sixth and final medal spot, leaving Espinal on the outside looking in.
Oddly enough, Lady Sharks head coach Sharon Elliot pointed out before the tournament that the weigh-in tiebreakers had been an issue in the past.
The Lady Sharks led the Hernando County squads with three girls appearing at the meet. Espinal’s total bested her own school record for most weight lifted at a state meet, fellow senior Jasmyn Davila, who finished 18th at 129 with a 125-140—265, and junior Rachel Crayton, who finished 21st at 183 with a 145-140—285.
"Honestly, I'm so proud they came here and competed," Nature Coast assistant coach Rudy Story said. "I'm happy with the results and the experience for the girls."
As for the other county schools, Springstead was represented by seniors Ashleigh Ruby at 139 and Andrea Purvis at 199.
Purvis finished eighth place, with a 170-150—320, 20 points behind Citrus’ Samantha Kanawall’s 340 sixth-place effort.
"I felt I didn't do too well today, I expected better and I wanted a place." Purvis said. "That wasn’t my top goal. I just wanted to improve my total, and I just wanted to go to states and I finished top 10, so it was a nice way (to finish her career)."
Ruby finished 26th in her weight class, with a 145 bench, but failed to record a clean-and-jerk score.
Hernando senior Victoria Alderman also competed in the 169 class. Alderman scratched out in both her bench and clean-and-jerk.
"Victoria did well; we had a tough outing on the bench," Lady Leopards head coach Casey Ellis said. "She’s a great kid. She worked exceptionally hard to get here. I know she’s upset but she came back in her cleans and got up 150."
Despite her getting up 150 pounds in the clean-and-jerk, it was registered as a failed lift.
The 169 platform was quite the center of attention at the meet, as several coaches were unhappy with the judge’s lack of communication as to whether a lift was acceptable or not.
That led to several disputes, including one by Gainesville’s Jessica Kinsler, who went to tie the state record for clean-and-jerk at 154, only to have what appeared to be a clean lift ruled ineligible by the same judge, leading to a chorus of boos from a packed crowd.
Despite no medals being awarded to any Hernando County lifter, every coach seemed to agree that the experience for these six girls was not only great for them but great for the county’s programs as a whole.
"I think we are slowly starting to get back to girls starting to compete more," Ellis said. "You're going to see more of a turnout from the county."
"You look at the caliber of these programs other schools have put up," Elliot added. "It's something for us to look forward to. This year the county put up (six competitors) and that's a good start to build on."
At Kissimmee Civic Center
1. Navarre 24, 2. Port Orange-Spruce Creek 23, Springstead (SPG) NTS, Nature Coast (NCT) NTS, Hernando (HER) NTS
Individual results (top 6 place)
129 – 18. Jasmyn Davila (NCT) 125-140—265
139 – 26.Ashleigh Ruby (SPG) 145-0—145
169 – 7. Espinal (NCT) 155-170—325, Alderman (HER) DNS
183 – 21. Rachel Crayton (NCT) 145-140—285
199 – 8. Andrea Purvis (SPG) 170-150—320