SEBRING — Highlands County had all three high schools represented at this year’s state weightlifting finals. Sebring sent Ty Johnson and Devon Durham to Kissimmee, while Malachi McLean and Josmel Soto competed for Lake Placid and Avon Park, respectively.
Durham, competing in the Class 2A heavyweight class, had the most productive weekend of any local lifter.
Durham finished in fifth place to reach the podium, edging St. Augustine’s Anthony Jeanty in the tie-breaker. Both lifted a total of 700 pounds, but Durham weighed in at 277 flat, while Jeanty was about two pounds heavier at 279.3. Durham benched 385 and lifted 315 in the clean-and-jerk.
Lifting in the 183 weight class, Johnson benched 320 and lifted 265 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 585.
“Ty just missed last year and went this year,” Blue Streaks weightlifting coach Steve Berry said. “He had a personal record bench at State of 320 and finished 10th from a 15 seed.
“Devon was a nine seed and moved up to medal at fifth with a PR bench of 385 and clean-and-jerk PR of 315 for a 700 total. Devon worked his tail off this year increasing his total weight lifted by 115 pounds since his first meet of the year.”
Berry also praised the rest of Sebring’s squad as well, many of whom excelled throughout the year as Sebring finished undefeated.
“I was very pleased with our season going undefeated and beating good teams like LaBelle,” Berry added. “We were solid in every weight class. Going to regionals requires exceptionally talented lifters to be at their best. I thought at best perhaps five of our lifters might qualify — Nestor Peralta finished fourth in the 119 class, and Dalton Hammon was third in the 129 class — both came close but did not make it. Jaquae Peart would have as well, but his eligibility ran out due to age.”
Berry added a nugget of wisdom for next year’s squad and lifters hoping to make it to state.
“The challenge for state is to not be content with just making it there,” he said. “And not getting over-hyped at the meet trying to lift too much weight and scratching out. Next year we will need a lot of our younger guys to step up. We lost many senior top lifters in each weight class.”
Meanwhile, in the Class 1A competition, Soto lifted a PR in the 129 class. Finishing in eighth place, Soto benched 220 and lifted 185 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 405.
“He’s really improved,” Avon Park coach Don Hickman said. “He had one of his best days ever, lifted a lot of weight and did it in a tough weight class. I’m really proud of him.”
McLean, the county’s lone district winner, finished tied for ninth in the 238 class. McLean benched 345 and lifted 285 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 600. This was McLean’s second straight trip to the state finals.