PORT ST JOE - Clay High’s Isaiah Jones and Ridgeview High’s A.J. Beaufort had the momentum wave on their side heading to the Class 2A weightlifting championships with dominant totals and …
PORT ST JOE - Clay High’s Isaiah Jones and Ridgeview High’s A.J. Beaufort had the momentum wave on their side heading to the Class 2A weightlifting championships with dominant totals and high-point district and region titles and both answered with decisive state championships in Saturday’s championship meet in Port St. Joe.
“There is really not much to do or say at a meet of this caliber, especially with an athlete like Isaiah,” said Clay coach Kyle Kennard. “He got great coaching from Rodney Keller before I took over last year and he has been a machine for the last four years to get here.”
Ridgeview, with 15 team points, would finish third to Pace and Charlotte, who tied at 23 team points as co-champions. Ridgeview, New Smyrna and Arnold all had 15 points with Suwannee at 14 in one of the closest top five finishes in meet history.
Jones, who won a district title by 100 pounds and a region title by 40 pounds, secured his 129 title by 20 pounds with a massive 470 pound total with Beaufort holding court at 154 by 30 pounds with an equally impressive 570 total.
Jones finished third with Beaufort fourth as the best aggregate lifters of the meet.
“I really went in focused on getting to the 470 total,” said Jones, who has had unfortunate luck with previous seasons with a COVID cancel last year and a five pound miss two years ago.”Everything this season has been according to plan.”
Beaufort hit 325 on the bench, but it was nullified by judges and he stuck at 315.
“He got to 570 and the Arnold kid took two shots at the title, but missed,” said Matt Knauss, Ridgeview High coach. “He dropped both to give A.J. the win.”
Middleburg had just two lifters; Jonathan Floyd, who finished ninth in 169, and Stone Newsome, who did not clear a clean and jerk in 183. Newsome had battled toe-to-toe with eventual 183 champion Jaquez Moore of Suwannee in previous meets; a region runnerup finish only by body weight last week.
Orange Park got a seventh place to Joe Penagos in 119 and a 13th to Cam Griffith at 129.
Ridgeview stayed close to the top three team points with Beaufort’s title and top finishes from Joe Reed at 199 and Prince Savea at 238, both fourth places in weight classes with dominant lifters at the top.
“We were close at the break, but moved a little in our heavier weights,” said Knauss. “It was going to be the 219 guys for our chance to win. We were three lifts away from winning the title.”
At 199, Fort Walton Beach’s Walker Robinson won at 710 with Reed at 630. At 238, Winter Springs’ Marvin Collins hoisted a top total of the day 750 pounds to Savea’s 630.
“That 750 is 100 pounds more than the Class 3A winner,” said Knauss. “I have said our class was brutal this year.”
Jones, who dabbled in football and baseball in his freshman and sophomore years at Clay, proved superior in the clean and jerk after just a five pound advantage after bench press with a 235 clean and jerk tied by one lifter; Arnold’s Saul Vega. Vega only benched 185 to Jones’ 235.
“I knew they would be shooting to upset me,” said Jones. “My coaches; Rodney Keller and Kyle Kennard, and my friend Daniel Paniagua were right there with me the whole way.”
In his final lift, to get to 470, Jones revelled in the quietness in his mind despite the raucous gym around him.
“I was really in the zone and I knew it was loud around me, but once I got up there to lift, I heard nothing,” said Jones. “In the video my mom took, she and my sister are screaming crazy and my coaches and everyone around was going nuts. I heard nothing. My coaches are kind of loud and fiery and I feed into that; it’s pretty cool.”
Also in 129, Ridgeview’s Chris Baptiste, fourth overall, stayed within 10 of Jones on the bench, but got just 195 on the clean and jerk.
“He had a great day; 215 on bench, a first in competition, then went to 225 and was within 10 of the Clay kid,” said Knauss.”Our sights were set on second with the Clay kid up there, but the Clay guy needed to falter. We got close in the bench, but the Clay guy is great in clean and jerk.”
Orange Park’s Cam Griffith finished 13th in 129.
At 219, Ridgeview had Collier Stephens in eighth and Miika Tusiano in 11th with Clay’s Al’Querious Ray not clearing a clean and jerk.
“We were within a few points at the intermission,” said Knauss. “Joe Reed had a tweaked back and could not attack the clean and jerk.”
At 154, Clay’s Daniel Paniagua was 12th.