Iron Ladies repeat; Heck, LaFary champs

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 2/23/23

LAKELAND - With two of three repeat champions; Emma Heck and Kyleigh LaFary, plus the state championship’s best pound for pound lifter, Heck, Clay High’s Iron Ladies Blue Devil girls …

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Iron Ladies repeat; Heck, LaFary champs


LAKELAND - With two of three repeat champions; Emma Heck and Kyleigh LaFary, plus the state championship’s best pound for pound lifter, Heck, Clay High’s Iron Ladies Blue Devil girls weightlifting team stole away with a one-point defense of their double titles of 2022.

“It was incredible! In the Olympic competition, we had a wider margin of a points lead so it was a bit less dramatic” said Clay coach Rodney Keller.

“The Traditional competition came down to our last lifter, Annalee Harbison having to hit her lifts to win it for the team as the final points ironed out across the board. As important as all of our girls were (and are), it was only fitting that she be the determining lifter for the day. She came back from a serious injury and has put an incredible amount of work in recovery and preparation. Having her seal the state title for the team was an incredible moment that we’ll never forget.”

Clay, with Emma Heck and Kyleigh LaFary repeating as individual champions in both Traditional and Olympics, walked away with a 25-24 team title in the Traditional scores over New Smyrna Beach with Fort Myers third at 20. Traditional is a combination of totals from the Olympic Snatch and Bench Press.

In the Olympic scores; which combines Olympic Snatch and Clean and Jerk, Clay won more decisively with a 29-22 score at the top over Fort Myers with Archbishop McCarthy third at 20. New Smyrna Beach took fourth with 17 points.

Heck smoked her 129 field with Olympic Snatch totals of 150-16-170 with the second best at 140.

“Emma is special. When the lights come on and it’s time to compete, she is as good as they get,” said Keller, who along with Heck was chosen as coach and lifter of the year last year.

LaFary crushed her Unlimited field with three 200-plus lifts in the clean and jerk, 205-215-225, with a 200 second best from teammate Kenya Tinajero.

“The two of them are training partners and have had an absolutely dominant season,” said Keller. “We wanted them to just go do what they do and finish their careers in a fashion that was indicative of the work they’ve poured into their purpose this season.”

In the Traditional, with Heck and Lafary also both state champions; Heck at 129 and LaFary at Unlimited, Clay got key points from outstanding performances from Anna Harbison at 183, who returned from a knee injury to finish second, and LaFary’s wingman, Kenya Tinajero who took fourth in Tradition and third in Olympic.

Clay’s third defending state champion, Janiyah Stevens at 154, had her hands full for the day taking fourth in Traditional and third in Olympics to Springstead High’s superwoman Nicole Caamario who hoisted totals of 410 in Olympics and 415 in Traditional. Caamario’s impressive showing would have won at 169, got second at 183 and third at 199 and Unlimited in Traditional.

“We both wanted nothing more than for her to go out and finish as a repeat state champion, but this year she had some incredible athletes in her weight class,” said Keller.

For Fleming Island, first year lifter Autumn Leviston, a gymnast and trackster in her earlier athletic endeavor, shocked the state with a record setting bench press of 180 in her 110 pound weight class to win by 15 pounds in Tradition. The previous bench press was held by Oakleaf state champion Tamira Briley at 175. Leviston opened at 165 to clear the deck with the second best bench of the weight class just 145. Leviston then tied the record before breaking it on her final lift. Leviston also finished sixth in Olympics.

Fleming Island, with coach Sean Coultis taking a team with zero state lifters last year to five in 2023, got a seventh place finish in Tradition with Leviston’s title.

Also in Traditional top 10 finishes, Middleburg’s Hannah Piniero at 101 took sixth; Ridgeview’s Adrian Dimeo at 129 took fourth; Clay’s Anna Shepard at 139 took seventh, and Clay’s Ansley Lyda at 199 took seventh.

In Olympics top 10, Ridgeview’s Dimeo was third; Clay’s Shepard was seventh at 139; Middleburg’s Madison Underwood at 154 took 10th; Clay’s Harbison was second, Clay’s Lyda was fifth at 199 and LaFary won at Unlimited with Tinajero third.

In Class 1A, with St. Johns Country Day School and Keystone Heights in the mix, defending state champion Addison Frisbee in Olympics finished third at 129. Keystone Heights’ Kaylee Wright at 169 finished fourth.

In Traditional, Wright was third; tied at second with 340 total, but the heavier of the two lifters.

In Class 1A, Suwannee won both disciplines; 28-18 over Imagine School with Lemon Bay third at 15.

Suwannee also won at Olympics over Lemon Bay, 35-18 with Imagine third at 17.

In Class 3A, Oakleaf High senior Ivy Gunn, at 169, finished fifth in Traditional and third on Olympics with teammate G’Amyia Aiken seventh in 183 in Tradition, and Caylin Volpe 10th in 199 in Tradition.

Winter Springs won the team title over Pace, 29-26, with Vero Beach third at 16 in Olympics. Pace beat Winter Springs 28-17 in Traditional with Navarre third at 17.


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