Dragons headed to state

Bethany Phillips has just one goal in mind for her high school weight-lifting career. The Lake Placid junior wants her name to hang in the gym's rafters before she graduates.

And her goal is within reach.

Saturday, Phillips will compete in the Single Class 1A State Finals in Kissimmee, where she'll need to out lift some of the state's strongest girls to capture a title.

"She'll be facing girls from Charlotte and Port Charlotte," said Green Dragons coach Donald Ridgeway. "Those girls lift all year long. It's their sport. It's their soccer, it's their volleyball. But to see someone as dedicated as Bethany, to do as well as she has, that's been exciting for me to watch."

Phillips is only in her second year of lifting, but she says she fell in love with the sport from the moment she walked into the weight-lifting room.

"What really drew me to it was the stereotypical idea that girls can't be strong," Phillips said. "My brother had been involved, and he sort of introduced me to the sport. He lifted in another county and went to state. He's been a really big inspiration."

The passion for weight-lifting came easy for Phillips, but she said getting to the level she's at now took hours of training.

"You have to work at it. You can't just start picking up weights and lifting. But the drive to get better and lift more was always there."

At the regional meet, Phillips placed third in the 199-pound class, finishing behind two girls from Charlotte and Port Charlotte, respectively. Phillips benched 145 and lifted 135 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 275. She tied the girl from Port Charlotte in the bench press, but was 10 pounds shy in the clean-and-jerk.

An all-around athlete, Phillips gave up her love of dancing to put all her energy and focus into weight lifting.

"I used to love dancing. I danced for five years," she said. "But once I got involved with this, I just didn't go back. Weight lifting is more worth it."

Devils smith makes regionals

Don't be fooled by the petite frame of Dejonda Smith. The Avon Park sophomore is one of the strongest athletes on the Red Devils girls weight lifting team. Smith was the only member to make it to regionals this year.

"As a freshman, I got so close to making it to regionals," she said. "I wanted that to be my goal this year. So I put in a lot of work and just tried to do the best I could do."

Smith is also a varsity cheerleader. She said weight lifting has made cheerleading much easier.

"It helps a lot. We cheer a couple of games for basketball and a couple of games for football, and working out when not in season makes cheerleading seem much easier."

Smith added that she plans on balancing both sports for the remainder of her career at Avon Park. She wants to get farther in the weight lifting tournament as well.

"I maxed out at about 105 in the regional round, but it was incomplete. So I just want to get better and stronger and maybe make state someday."

Streaks stand out at districts

Not to be forgotten, Sebring's girls weight lifting team finished the year with a litany of athletes who placed well in the district sub-section meets.

Imani Powell reached regionals with a first place finish in the 129 class. She benched 140 and lifted 125 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 265. Briah Thomas (169) also reached the regional round for the Streaks, lifting 150 in the clean-and-jerk and benching 145 for a total of 295. Denise Constant captured first place in the 139 class, benching 125 and lifting 140 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 265. In the unlimited class, Angela Dennard benched 185 and lifted 145 in the clean-and-jerk, totalling a whopping 330.

Other impressive performances came from, Ali Sanchez (170), Zulyeka Valles (101), Katie Stoll (110), and Monika Tookes (130) who all placed second in their respective classes.