Ridaught: Bulldogs, Indians to compete for 1A title

The Class 1A weightlifting state tournament will feature Suwannee's Sam Wainwright (left) and Keystone Heights' Brian Overton as the two schools battle for a title on Saturday.
Wainwright photo courtesy of Suwannee High School/Overton photo courtesy of Leavy Alvare

Last Friday, two area defending state champions went head-to-head for a regional weightlifting title. 

Host Suwannee (Live Oak) was the defending 2A state champion, while Keystone Heights is a two-time defending state champion in Class 1A. 

On Saturday at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, the Bulldogs and the Indians will compete against each other again, this time for a state title. 

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“We are extremely excited about this year’s state meet,” said Suwannee weightlifting coach Dan Marsee. “While there will be several great teams and lifters competing, we can only control what we do. We simply have to go out and perform to our abilities.”

Courtesy of Suwannee High School Suwannee weightlifter Will Wainwright.

At the Class 1A-Region 2 meet, Suwanee outscored Keystone, 74-54, to win the Olympic competition, and Keystone outscored Suwannee, 56-53, in the traditional to split regional titles. 

Suwannee, which dropped down to Class 1A this year, had four weightlifters who won both an Olympic and traditional regional title. 

Chris Gonzalez (119-pound division) finished with a total of 385 pounds in the traditional and 345 pounds in the Olympic competition, Marquavious Owens (154 pounds) had 545 and 475, respectively, while the Wainwright twins (Sam – 183, Will – 199) finished with 640 and 575, and 675 and 454 totals, respectively. 

Brandon Robinson (219 pounds) took home a regional title in the Olympic competition with a total of 540 pounds.

“We have several lifters that have a chance to be on top when all the dust clears and that is all you can really ask for,” Marsee said. “Sam and Will Wainwright are two of those lifters that have worked extremely hard to put themselves in this position. That is what makes this sport special, hard work is rewarded. We are also a very young team with basically everyone coming back again next year, however we are losing a couple very good seniors like Brandon Robinson. This will be a great test.” 

Defending champion Suwannee, which moved down to 1A, is considered the favorite at the state meet after qualifying 19 lifters, including 18 in the Olympic event. 

“As for defending the title from last year, we tell our kids daily not to look back,” Marsee said. “Last year was special but our job is to make this year special. We have to stay in the present. Our team motto this year follows that path. It is ‘Be Here, Not There.’ This meet is our ‘here’.” 

Meanwhile, Keystone Heights will be seeking its third straight Class 1A state title. 

Courtesy of Leavy Alvarez Keystone Heights weightlifter Larry Jeffries

Brian Overton and Tyeler Anthony-Rozier won a regional title in both the traditional and Olympic competitions.

Overton (169 pounds) finished with totals of 590 and 505 in the traditional and Olympic, while Anthony-Rozier (238) won with totals of 655 and 470.

Larry Jeffries III (219), who was a regional champion in the traditional competition with a total of 665 pounds, was runner-up to Robinson in the Olympic, although both finished with a total of 540 pounds. 

“Bo (Brian) and Trey (Larry) are really great young men who have dedicated themselves to the weight room since middle school,” said Keystone Heights coach Lantz Lowery, who was the Florida Dairy Farmers Coach of the Year last year. “Time pays off. I don’t know how else to put it.” 

Teamwork will be essential if Keystone is to three-peat.

“The key to defending the state title is to realize that it is about us as a team and not individuals,” Lowery said. “We are at our best when each kid looks out for his teammate and helps each other be their best. Our mindset is to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. Nail down our lifts and limit the misses. If we can do this and another school wins then they are better.” 

Four runner-up finishes helped Suwannee to the Olympic regional title. 

Randy Garcia (310 total pounds) and Kaderian Ivey (430) finished second behind Gonzalez and Owens in the 119- and 154-pound division, respectively, and Isiah Love (169) finished second behind Keystone’s Overton with a 420-pound total. 

Alex Mabey was the 238-pound runner-up behind Keystone’s Anthony-Rozier by just five pounds (465). 

Keystone won another traditional regional title by adding four runner-up finishes and five more that placed to help the Indians edge the Bulldogs. Marsee said it came down to “the very last lift of the day.” 

That’s how close it was at the regional meet. 

This time it will be on a neutral floor. Expect another close competition tomorrow at state.

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LIZ Jenkins

When I first saw your last name along with Keystone, I thought the Clay County elementary school from the Ridaught area was changed to the high school level–LOL I moved to G-ville from that part of Clay County, where I also taught.