AVON PARK - Lemon Bay and LaBelle went down to the wire at Tuesday's Class 1A-District 8 boys weightlifting championship. The Cowboys edged the Manta Rays by one point, 51-50, to finish in first place overall.
Lake Placid finished third with 21 points, sending six kids home with medals and one to state. Avon Park, meanwhile, had four lifters medal, as the Red Devils finished tied for fifth with DeSoto, tallying 14 points. Medals are awarded to the top six lifters in each weight class.
Rounding out the rest of the schools in the 10-team meet was Bradenton Southeast and Hardee, which tied for fourth with 19 points, while Bayshore (Bradenton) and Sarasota Cardinal Mooney tied for sixth with 12, and Sarasota Booker finished seventh with eight.
"I was really pleased with how our guys performed," Avon Park weightlifting coach Don Hickman said. "We have a super young team and they've really shown that they're learning what it takes to compete."
Tuesday's meet coincided with the Travis Todd Invitational, an annual meet that memoralizes former Avon Park weightlifter Travis Todd, who was killed in a car wreck coming back from Graceland University.
"I was really pleased for the Todds too," Hickman said. "They've done a great job in supporting the program and it was great to see our guys go out and represent them so well."
Malachi McLean was the only lifter to total 600 pounds at Tuesday's meet. In the 238-pound class, McLean benched a whopping 335 pounds before lifting 265 in the clean-and-jerk. Nathan Gibson rounded out the weight class for the Green Dragons, benching 275 and lifting 225 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 500.
In the 199 class, Lake Placid's Isaac McLean finished third with a total of 440. He benched 240 before lifting 240 in the clean-and-jerk. Wyatt Youngman knotched a fifth place finish for the Dragons, benching 185 and lifting 175 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 360.
Lake Placid's James Blake and Travis Baxter finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 183 weight class. Blake benched 245 and lifted 225 for a total of 470, while Baxter benched 235 and lifted 205 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 440.
For the Devils, Josmel Soto has the best finish of the evening, coming in second in the 129 class. Soto benched 215 before lifting 175 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 385. Avon Park's Leonaldo Fils-Aime placed third in the 139 class, benching 210 and lifting 165 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 375.
Other impressive performances for the Devils came from Alex Arango, Jacob Baldridge, Steeven Damas, and Jeremy Ethridge. Competing in the 154 class, Arango totaled 315 by benching 185 and lifting 135 in the clean-and-jerk. Baldridge totaled 340 in the heavyweight class, benching 205 and lifting 135 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 340.
Damas and Ethridge both competed in the 238 class. Damas lifted a total of 365, benching 205 and lifting 160 in the clean-and-jerk. Ethridge benched 185 and lifted 145 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 330.
Hickman, who has been a pillar of the Devils weightlifting program for the last two decades, said he was pleased to see so many Avon Park alumnus come out and help officiate the district championship.
"Practically every person out there overseeing each class was a former student of mind," he said. "They've all gone on to a lot of great things after school and have grown into really great adults. I'm just so proud of them."
The Class 1A State Finals will be April 25-26 at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee. Competition begins at 10 a.m.