Bethany Phillips doesn't believe in stereotypes.
The Lake Placid junior was drawn to weightlifting after a lifetime of dancing, primarily because she didn't like the notion that girls couldn't excel at it.
"I wanted to compete in a sport like that. Where people thought girls couldn't be strong," Phillips said. "And to get to compete at the top level is just so amazing."
Phillips was the only Highlands County weightlifter to reach the state finals this season. Competing in the 199-pound weight class, she finished third in the District 8 Sectional, benching 145 pounds and lifting 130 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 275. At the state meet, she tied for 19th place, benching 140 and lifting 140 in the clean-and-jerk.
And Phillips is confident that she can make it back to state next year.
"I know what it takes to get there now," she said. "I'll need to get in the gym during the offseason and stay strong. You've got to give every ounce of energy to this sport to succeed. If you don't, you're not going to go far."
For her accomplishments, Phillips has been selected as the Highlands Today 2014 All-Highlands Girls Weightlifter of the Year.
"Just to be up for it is so amazing," she said. "And to win it is so crazy. I'm really honored by the award. And it just makes me want to compete even harder and go farther at state next year."
Not one to hog the spotlight, Phillips thanked her family and teammates for always supporting her.
"I couldn't have done this without them," she said. "My aunt Delinda Baker, my best friend Ali Griffen, and my boyfriend Bo Campbell were all big influences."
Phillips said their backing was a major factor in helping her succeed. She added that she wants to help her fellow Green Dragons develop their weightlifting careers.
"I know how sore your body can be and how bad your muscles can hurt after that first workout. I want to be able to talk about training with them and help them succeed too."
Angela Dennard, senior, Sebring - Captain of the Blue Streaks girls weight lifting team, coach Steve Berry called Dennard a "diligent worker." Dennard also lifted the highest combined total for the team. She benched 145-pounds while lifting 185 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 330. She won the Single Class District 8 Subsection meet in the unlimited weight class.
Deonjai Smith, sophomore, Avon Park - Smith made it to regionals in District 8, where she finished second in the 101 weight class.
"She had a solid freshman year and came on strong this season," Avon Park coach Pakitta Wells-Felix said. "She lifted well. But Deonjai will really grown into her body as she gets older. She's got a good shot of making it to state before her career is over.
Kiara "Kiki" Slade, freshman, Lake Placid - Competing in the 101 weight class, Slade qualified for the District 8 sectional by benching 80 pounds and lifting 80 more in the clean-and-jerk.
?Briah Thomas, sophomore, Sebring - Thomas won the District 8 subsection for the 169-pound weight class. She lifted 150 pounds in the clean-and-jerk and benched 145.
"Briah was the most improved lifter from last year," Berry said. "She boosted her total by 80 pounds. She came up a little short of making it to state, but look for her to make it there next year."
Junie Estine, sophomore, Avon Park - A weight lifter noted for her hard work, Estine competed well in the District 8 regional meet.
"She'll make it to state next year," Wells-Felix said. "I think some of the stronger girls in her class surprised her at the meet. But she'll work to get stronger and lift heavier weights."
Brandy McMahon, senior, Lake Placid - A district qualifier, McMahon benched 85 pounds while lifting 90 in the clean-and-jerk in the 110-pound weight class.
Denise Constant, senior, Sebring - Competing in the 139-pound weight class, Constant benched 125 and lifted 140 in the clean-and-jerk for an impressive total of 265+10. She won the District 8 Subsection meet for her class this year.
"Denise is the most explosive clean-and-jerk lifter I've ever seen in girls weight lifting," Berry said. "She had an impressive season despite having to miss time due to work."
KaShunda Martel, sophomore, Avon Park - One of the most promising weight lifters at Avon Park, Red Devils coach Wells-Felix said Martel is one of the most consistent, hard workers she's ever coached. Well-Felix added that she thinks Martel has a shot of making it to state before she graduates.
Abigail Samperi, senior, Lake Placid - Samperi was a sectional qualifier in the 139-pound weight class, where she benched 105 pounds and lifted 125 in the clean-and-jerk.
Imani Powell, junior, Sebring - A stellar weight lifter through her first three years of high school, Powell's junior season produced similar results. Lifting in the 129-pound weight class, Powell won her class at the District 8 Subsection but fell just shy of making it to state. Her highest weight totals were 140 pounds in the bench and lifting 125 in the clean-and-jerk.
"She's very athletic," Berry said. "She missed a trip to state on her last clean-and-jerk attempt. But she and Briah have a good shot of making it there next year."
Breauna Corley, senior, Lake Placid - A standout for the Green Dragons on the volleyball court as well as on the softball diamond, Corley was a sectional qualifier for Lake Placid in the 183-pound weight class. She benched 105 pounds and lifted 145 in the clean-and-jerk.
Marvishay Sholtz, sophomore, Lake Placid - Only a sophomore, Sholtz is already making her presence known to Lake Placid's girls weight lifting team. A sectional qualifier in the unlimited weight class, Sholtz benched 140 pounds and lifted 140 in the clean-and-jerk.
Zulyeka Valles, junior, Sebring - Valles competed in the 101-pound weight class, where she benched 65 pounds and lifted 75 in the clean-and-jerk. She finished second in the District 8 Subsection meet.
Joanna Sanchez, senior, Lake Placid - Sanchez was one of the Dragons most prolific weightlifters in the 139-pound weight class.
Ansley Selander, sophomore, Sebring - Benched 85 pounds and lifted 100 in the clean-and-jerk. Competed in the 199-pound class.
Cheyenne Slade, sophomore, Lake Placid - Working out of the 110-pound class, Slade has a bright future for Lake Placid girls weightlifting.
Ayanna Thomas, freshman, Sebring - In the 199-pound class, Thomas benched 90 pounds and lifted 100 in the clean-and-jerk. She finished third in the District 8 Subsection.
Katie Stoll, junior, Sebring - Stoll finished second in the District 8 Subsection meet. In the 110-pound class, she benched 95 pounds and lifted 90 in the clean-and-jerk.
Monika Tookes, junior, Sebring - In the 139-pound class, Tookes benched 130 pounds and lifted 115 in the clean-and-jerk. She was runner-up in the District 8 Subsection for her weight class.
Iesha Weathers, senior, Sebring - Wrapping up her Streaks career with a third place finish in the District 8 Subsection meet, Weathers benched 120 pounds and lifted 90 in the clean-and-jerk while competing in the 154-pound weight class.
Teresa Ware, junior, Sebring - Ware is looking to make it to state next season. In the 169-pound class, Ware benched 115 pounds and lifted 125 in the clean-and-jerk.
Naijah Sholtz, freshman, Sebring - A talented freshman, Sholtz finished third in the District 8 Subsection meet in the 183-pound class. She benched 100 bounds and lifted 90 in the clean-and-jerk.
Latoya Henley, freshman, Sebring - One of Sebring's stock of impressive freshman, Henley benched 125 pounds and lifted 125 in the clean-and-jerk. She finished third in the 183-pound weight class at the District 8 Subsection meet.
Ali Sanchez, junior, Sebring - In the unlimited weight class, Sanchez benched 170 pounds and lifted 140 in the clean-and-jerk. She finished second at the District 8 Subsection meet.
Coach of the Year
For his efforts in guiding Bethany Phillips to state, Lake Placid's Donald Ridgeway has been selected as the Highlands Today 2014 All-Highlands Girls Weightlifting Coach of the Year.