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Briley, Zitkus, Stevens get top lifts at Suwannee

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 12/23/20

LIVE OAK - Three unique opportunities played out Friday afternoon for area girls weightlifters as the final meet before Christman, the Suwannee High Power of Christmas Invitational, put some of the …

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Briley, Zitkus, Stevens get top lifts at Suwannee


LIVE OAK - Three unique opportunities played out Friday afternoon for area girls weightlifters as the final meet before Christman, the Suwannee High Power of Christmas Invitational, put some of the strongest teams in Florida together in a meet that could foreshadow some key matchups at the FHSAA state championships.

“This is about putting the girls in a gym against some of the best weightlifters in Florida to see where we are,” said Clay High coach Rodney Keller. “We take what happens here and we know where we have to go over the holiday break to be ready in January.”

Clay County was aptly represented with three individual champions from three different schools led by state record chaser Tamira Briley of Oakleaf winning at 110, Clay’s Janiya Stevens at 154 and Ridgeview’s Kylie Zitkus winning at 199 pounds. Stevens, who smoked the 154 field with a 345 total with 300 second, lifted at the Class 1A championships last year as a freshman. Stevens crushed the bench press with a 160 effort then overwhelmed the clean and jerk at 185. Mosley’s Hannah Cordon failed at 150 on bench to open the door then could only muster 150 on the clean and jerk as Stevens’ opened with an astounding 175 first lift then hit 185 on her third lift.

“We lost 13 seniors last year and have just a handful of experienced lifters and Kylie is one of them,” said Ridgeview coach Trentin Davis, who stormed to a district title last year and had Zitkus, a fifth place state finisher, as his lone returning state athlete. “We have some girls that are getting more experience each week with their technique and that will bring higher totals later in the season.”

Zitkus saw her first lift at bench put her as second best behind Wewahitchka’s Mariah Baker, but the pressure of going up hit Baker who missed at 200 and 205 as she tried to put more gap on Zitkus.

Zitkus, ranked fourth best overall lifter based on weight to weight ratios, stayed on game plan and finish five pounds up with a third lift at 190 then destroyed the field in the clean and jerk with her 160 lift. Baker, with a miss at 140, hit 150 but missed matching Zitkus’ 160 on her third lift, wound up at 335 to Zitkus’ 350.

With Suwannee High School entertaining challenges as the top team Friday night, Clay High got their dibs in during the chase with a runnerup finish ahead of notable powerhouses Pace High, Mosley High and Leesburg High. Clay finished with 36 team points with Suwannee winning at 57 points in a final tally that swayed throughout the competition. Ridgeview finished sixth with Oakleaf taking ninth.

On the opposite end of the powerhouse scale, St. Johns Country Day School, fielding their first-ever school team, coached by Justin Frisbee and led by freshman Addison Frisbee, a nationally-ranked age group Olympic lift medalist, put their mettle to the test against the rugged field.

“It’s been a little overwhelming at first, but I think we are starting to get our grip and doing well,” said Frisbee. “We got a few first places in small meets earlier this season and we had girls on top here for a little bit. Baby steps.”

The Spartans presence at the Suwannee event; which came about on the interest of four athletes, according to Frisbee, who got the approval of athletic director Tracy Livingston, and started the ball rolling.

“We won’t get to compete in post season tournaments this year as individuals,” said Frisbee. “I just have to get some more girls.”

Frisbee’s daughter Addison, a podium finisher at numerous state and national meets for Olympic style lifting was one of three top 10 finishers for the Spartans with her seventh place finish in the 110 pound division. Frisbee is currently ranked in Florida on the 2020 Florida Elite Youth Rankings and was selected to the Florida Elite team that was scheduled to compete in Atlanta at the National Championships. NOTE: The Atlanta event became a virtual event due to COVID.

At 119, St. Johns cross country runner Evelyn Hanson finished fourth against a field that included Suwannee High defending state champion at 110, Matti Marsee; Mosley High’s eighth in Class 2A Dae Williamson and Clay High’s Riley Ledford, who finished third Friday.

At 110, for St. Johns, Mia Morin finished eighth.

“We are pretty good in the clean and jerk because the Olympic weightlifting uses the Olympic snatch lift (from floor to overhead) instead of the clean and jerk (from floor to shoulders to overhead),” said Frisbee, who’s daughter won her first medals as a seventh grader with six silver medals in 2017 at the Florida Olympics State Championships. “We’ll make some noise around meets because the Olympic snatch becomes part of the high school lifting scoring. Addison has podium nationally three times in Olympic snatch.”

In one of the more dramatic moments of the day, Oakleaf High’s Tamira Briley, already teetering with state record lifting totals thoughout the season, won her 110 pound weight division again with bench press prowess.

“We are moving slowly up the weights as we get closer to the state championships and Tamira is increasing her weight totals each week on the schedule,” said Oakleaf High coach Ben White. “We are going to try 180 today after hitting a few 170s in the past few weeks. I just found out that 180 was the post season state record; 170 the regular season record. That’s where we are going.”

Briley opened on bench press at 155 which was nearly 50 pounds ahead of the rest of the field, then finished with 170. In the Clean and Jerk, again, Briley went big with just one competitor, Clay’s Sam Migliore able to match the opening weight of 135. From there, the pair battled to 145, but Migliore hit her 145 on her third lift while Briley hit on on her second then blasted 160 on her third lift for the win.

Along with Briley, in the 110 division, was Clay High’s Sam Migliore, who dropped from 113 last year where she was third in Class 1A, to 110. Migliore was third at 119 last year behind Suwannee state champion Matti Marsee.

Other top 10 finishers were, in 101, Gabriella Etheridge and Morgan Greer, fifth and sixth; in 110, Ridgeview’s Jada Ricketts and Jolie Dresner were eighth and ninth; in 119, Oakleaf got Lilly Jones in 10th; at 129, Clay’s Bailee Kumm was third, Marina McKean was sixth, Oakleaf’s Elle Bronson was seventh and Ridgeview’s Tyra Sulph was eighth; at 154, Oakleaf’s Ariana Eason was seventh; at 169, Ridgeview’s Haley Beardin was fourth and Fleming Island’s Grace Fields was 10th; at 183, Ridgeview’s Ava Haber was fourth, Clay’s Annalee Harbison was fifth, Oakleaf’s Jazzmine Francis was ninth; at 199, Ridgeview’s Kenyatte Hogan was sixth, and, at unlimited, Clay’s Kyleigh Lafary was second with Fleming Island’s Markayla Madison fifth and Clay’s Ansley Lyda seventh.


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