KISSIMMEE — They had been here before, just one year earlier, so they knew what to expect.
It was the second trip to the state meet for Fort White’s Kacey Carter and Tyrah Jackson.
Last year was a learning experience.
This year they hoped to make the medal stand.
And they did.
Carter placed second overall in the unlimited weight class while Jackson placed fourth in the 139-pound weight class to reach the podium. The two girls tallied eight total points for Fort White, which tied for 10th place overall with Lecanto at the Class 1A state meet Friday.
“Last year was the first time we’ve actually had girls qualify. This year was the first time we’ve actually had them score,” Fort White head coach Dan Marsee said.
Carter, a freshman, set personal bests with a bench press of a 190 pounds and a clean-and-jerk of 180 pounds for a total of 375 pounds, 45 behind first-place lifter Mykala McCranie from Baker High.
Everyone, including Carter, thought she had benched 195 on her final bench press attempt but officials ruled she lifted her heels, disqualifying her attempt.
“It really surprised everybody because even on the video we couldn’t see her heel come up at all but it wouldn’t have made a difference in the place because the girl that won it was way out there,” Marsee said.
Jackson, a senior, went six for six on all her lifts and also hit personal bests with a 145-pound bench press and a 170-pound clean-and-jerk. Both Jackson and Carter made huge strides from the beginning of the season.
“Tyrah was missing 130-135 on the bench and on clean-and-jerk she was struggling with 145 so for her to go to a 15 pound increase on bench and all the way to 170 on the clean-and-jerk was huge progress,” Marsee said. “Kacey was kind of in the same boat with the huge increases too. A lot of it was just cleaning up some technical flaws and they really put the time in over the break with their technique to allow some strength gains.”
Sophomore Mikayla Sparkman made her first trip to the state meet after earning an at-large bid at the regional meet. Sparkman placed 19th in the 169-pound class with a total of 120 pounds.
She benched 120 pounds on her first bench press but missed 130 on her next two tries. Sparkman then opened on her clean-and-jerk with 135 pounds but missed it on all three tries.
“We knew going in she was going to have a lot of nerves so we kind of took the same approach we did last year with Tyrah and Kacey — we brought her and kind of had her go for personal bests on her early lifts,” Marsee said. “We knew she wasn’t going to be placing so we were trying to get her some really strong experience at state and she did a great job.”
Although Jackson is set to graduate, Carter and Sparkman have laid a foundation at Fort White for the next few years. Marsee believes there were also at least seven girls who just missed qualifying for state.
“Next year is going to be a year that’s going to be really, really big for us because I’ve got a lot of young girls that have a legitimate shot at not only qualifying but doing real well,” Marsee said.
Team: 1. River Ridge 27, 2. Nature Coast 20, 3. Union 16, 4. Baker 14, 5. Baker County 13, 6. Clay, Leesburg, Mosley, Port Charlotte 9, 10. Fort White, Lecanto 8, 12. Altha, Sebring 7, 14. Bradford, Port St. Lucie, Suwannee 5, Wolfson 5, 18. Arnold, Gulf Breeze, Poinciana 4.