Selecting Nature Coast Technical senior Alicia Elizabeth Gentz as Hernando Today's Lifter of the Year is similar to watching a Gator fast break during March Madness: it always seems to end well.
To that end, the multi-dimensional Gentz put together an astounding season under the bar.
Gentz was born in Beaver Dam, near Madison, in Wisconsin as the oldest of four children to Ken and Tracy Gentz. The family has called Hernando County home for the past seven years.
The 5-foot-2, 120-pound Gentz's athletic strength may lie in her DNA. Both her parents were student/athletes in high school.
Both parents encouraged extracurricular activities from their children, but with a caveat. According to Gentz, if she or her siblings were going to compete in any sport they had to be all in.
Her first organized sport was gymnastics. On the insistence of her cousin, Gentz joined gymnastics in third grade and stayed with it until sixth grade.
In sixth grade, she transitioned into cheerleading for six years - including all four years at NCT.
She took up weightlifting as a freshman on the California Street campus.
"I like the competitiveness," explained Gentz. "I enjoyed doing it. I found out pretty quickly that I was pretty good at it - that always helps. Plus, I was having fun."
Gentz's adaptation to the sport - strikingly similar to the University of Florida's transition from defense to offense in basketball - was remarkable.
As a frosh, she competed in eight meets - winning her first seven in a row. Her run included garnering gold in the pressure-packed Hernando County Championship and District 5 meets.
Her sterling campaign closed with an uncharacteristic power failure - placing 19th in her first-ever the FHSAA Finals.
Gentz, who likes to stay active, is also a fixture on the Lady Sharks' track and field team. She's competed in the sport for four years.
As a sophomore, she opted to concentrate on track, skipping what would have been her second year under the bar.
"Looking back, I don't regret what I did," she said. "But I kind of wish I would have done both sports. I think I could've made it happen."
Gentz returned to the weight room in 2012-13 and picked up where she left off.
In six meets, she netted five individual victories. The most savoring title was her second Hernando County championship.
She also demonstrated that there was little to no rust in her return by placing fifth in the rugged 3rd annual Disparti Invitational at River Ridge.
But to her chagrin, Gentz concluded her second season under the bar on a down note, scratching out during the District 5 competition in West Pasco County.
Undeterred, Gentz turned heads with a spectacular senior campaign this winter.
In a sign of growth, Gentz competed in eight meets and finished third or better in every meet.
In all, the Badger State native captured five individual victories topped by her third Hernando County title at Central.
Her seasonal highlight reel included placing runner-up in both the Disparti and at districts at River Ridge.
She capped a sterling prep career becoming the first female NCT lifter to place at the 11th annual FHSAA Finals at Osceola County (third).
In the process, Gentz shredded the NCT record for most career wins - set by Kiana Espinal (15 in 2011-13) - behind 18 victories.
Gentz was so impressive, area coaches unanimously voted her in as the county's LOY.
"For both Alicia and (her sister) Ashley, their work ethic separates them from the rest. Both are very competitive and both of them have earned everything they get. What separates Alicia and Ashley from everyone else is their dedication," pointed out NCT's fourth-year mentor Sharon Elliott. "They don't take summers off and there are no such things as Christmas vacation - they're in the (weight) room, getting their lifts in.
"Alicia is very naturally gifted athlete. She's the type that leads by example.."
"Unbelievable lifter; an amazing athlete," described Springstead skipper Mike Garofano. "Her gymnastics background certainly helped. In a nutshell, she was a strong, well-coached lifter, who earned this."
"What a great season," added Hernando head coach Casey Ellis "All the hard work she put in paid off."
"She's a great kid and a tremendous athlete," pointed Weeki Wachee head coach Mike Fye. "She and her sister are in a unique situation. To find two sisters that are that talented is few and hard to come by."
"The strongest lifter pound-for-pound in the county," declared Central head coach Joe Nestor. "You don't get this good by not putting in the time in the weight room."
"I kind of thought I had a chance (for LOY), but there were quite a few good lifters," reacted the 17-year-old Gentz.
In reviewing her final season, "I'm really happy with my results," she said. "I could've scratched out, but I reached my ultimate goal. I wanted to go back to states and medal. I finally did it this year.
"I still can't believe I medaled," she said. "That medal definitely made all the work I put in worthwhile. All that extra time during the summers and during the holidays was worth it."
? ? ?
Since weightlifting concluded, Gentz has switched gears toward the Shark Tank Stadium oval. She's competing once again in the sprint corps in the 100, 200, 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
Her 4x100 relay squad did not earn the county championship during her sophomore year, but reached as deep as states.
On Wednesday she earned a county title in the 100 and 4x100.
"I like track," said Gentz. "It's a sport my mom did in high school. I don't like sitting around; I like to stay busy."
By no means is Gentz one-dimensional; she carries a 3.7 weighted grade point average in NCT's medical cluster. She expects to graduate among the top 50 members of this year's graduating class.
Gentz has also mapped out her future. She will be attending Division III University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh next fall, majoring in the nursing program.
"I still have lots of family and friends there," explained Gentz on why she's returning to the land of the Green Bay Packers. "They have an indoor track facility and I may walk on. My career goal is to work in a hospital."
Currently, Gentz is saving for college by working part-time at the newly opened Springleton Fun Park on County Line Road.
"I'm going to miss Florida and my friends here," noted Gentz, "But hopefully, I'll be back during my school breaks."
Before traversing to 'America's Dairyland,' Gentz would like to be remembered as "one of the first girls from Nature Coast to medal at states," she said. "It really takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get where you want to be."
By the numbers: NCT's Alicia Gentz in 2013-14
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
WGT OPPONENT BEN C&J TOT PL
119 Hernando 115 115 230 1st
119 Lecanto 120 140 260 1st
119 Springstead 120 125 245 1st
119 South Sumter 125 145 270 1st
119 Disparti Invitational 125 155 280 2nd
119 County *** 135 145 280 1st
119 District 5 125 150 275 2nd
119 FHSAA Finals 135 160 295 3rd
*** Denotes three-time county champion.