By GAVIN LAPAILLE
Gold Standard Sports Editor
Instead of spending time on the beach or at other outdoor activities, a group of Fort Knox High School students spent their spring break lifting weights and collecting hardware.
The school’s power lifting team continued its strong history in the National Athlete Strength Association’s high school national championships in Oklahoma City, winning four categories and coming in second in three others. The Eagles won 19 individual national championships and brought home 64 trophies and plaques overall, while eighth-grader Ricky Olivares set two national records.
Fort Knox came up short in defending its overall national championship, but head coach Conrad Garcia said he’s proud of the way the team performed.
“There weren’t as many lifters at the meet as there was last year, but the quality of the lifters was better,” Garcia said. “We did really well for a young team. I wanted to win but we’re still a strong team.”
The Eagles took 14 girls and four boys to the meet. Competition was spread out across different weight classes and age groups in three different categories of power lifting: unequipped power lifting, power sports and power press.
Freshman Jayci Gomes (97 pounds), sophomore Breanne Taylor (181 pounds) and Olivares (123 pounds) swept all three categories in their respective weight classes, while sophomores Fabiola Martinez (105 pounds) and Caitlan McMillion (114 pounds) won two apiece. Seniors Greysha De’Jesus (123 pounds) and Sierra Williams (165 pounds), juniors Queen Sullivan (148 pounds), Hailey Fluharty (132 pounds), and Shazia Olivares (105 pounds) and freshman Autuma Windom (148 pounds) each walked away with one championship.
Almost 80 percent of the team is made up of underclassmen, with many performing at the national meet for the first time.
“We did better than I thought in some areas and not so good in some,” Garcia said. “Our underclassmen are the ones that got us to place. They went there and were not afraid. If it wouldn’t have been for our underclassmen, we wouldn’t have won the nationals in some areas.”
All of the competitors have to weigh in prior to lifting and make weight to compete in a specific class. For Gomes, this proved problematic as she was four pounds overweight after snacking during the 12-hour drive to Oklahoma. She went straight into the sauna where she stayed until she was able to just make weight by the slimmest of margins.
After winning three national championships, Gomes would do it again if she had to.
“Coming here is a big deal and having a trophy that says national champion, getting that displayed is like whoa,” Gomes said. “I have a power lifting medal, how cool is that?”
McMillion thought the meet went how she expected, but walked away impressed with the abilities from some of her competitors.
“I don’t expect people my size or someone else that little lift insane weights,” McMillion said. “It blows my mind.”
Overall the team agreed while the meet was stressful, it was still a fun experience.
“I’m proud of myself for making it down there,” said seventh-grader Molly Irish, who finished second in all three categories. “It was awesome for my team and to be with them.”
The Eagles made sure to include some fun while traveling. They hung out in the hotel, went to dinner and watched movies together after the competition, and the team’s chemistry made the long drive seem much more tolerable. Shazia said she thinks this team is much closer than some of the others they competed against.
“I’ve never traveled so far with a team for something like that so I thought it was pretty special,” Shazia said. “We’re always encouraging each other. It’s a big difference.”
Garcia is proud of the way the lifter’s parents supported the team, with close to a dozen also making the trip. Specifically he wanted to thank his coaching staff, Rickey Garcia and Michael and Misty Newport, and the team’s mom, Jaynina Gomes, for their support during the season.
“You have all these parents following them knowing their child are going to do something good,” Garcia said. “Their support is fantastic. The kids are in love with weight lifting. The school has really gotten behind them.”
Power Lifting Results
First place in weight class – Fabiola Martinez, Caitlan McMillion, Jayci Gomes, Breanne Taylor, Ricky Olivares
Second place in weight class – Molly Irish, Hailey Fluharty, Shazia Olivares, Autuma Windom
Third place in weight class – Sierra Williams, Greysha De’Jesus, Alyssa Thoraton, Kat Garcia
Power Sports Results
First place in weight class – Fabiola Martinez, Queen Sullivan, Caitlan McMillion, Hailey Fluharty, Jayci Gomes, Breanne Taylor, Shazia Olivares, Greysha De’Jesus, Autuma Windom, Sierra Williams, Ricky Olivares
Second place in weight class – Molly Irish, Alyssa Thoraton, Will May
Third place in weight class – Jonathan Dray, D’Andre Mitchell, Kat Garcia
Power Press Results
First place in weight class – Jayci Gomes, Breanne Taylor, Ricky Olivares
Second place in weight class – Molly Irish, Shazia Olivares
Third place in weight class – Fabiola Martinez, Hailey Fluharty, Alyssa Thoraton, Will May, Jonathan Dray, D’Andre Mitchell, Kat Garcia