FORT WHITE — There’s a big party going down at the Fort White gymnasium this Friday, and everyone has been invited to attend.
Or so it seems.
At least 16 schools from around the area will be in attendance for the fifth annual Indian Invitational weightlifting meet. The Indians are hosting the event once again to raise money for their weightlifting program while also preparing themselves for the district meet this season and beyond.
The event has grown immensely from the first year it was held when only six schools lifted. Fort White head coach Dan Marsee expects there to be close to 400 lifters suited up on Friday, providing some valuable competition for his young team.
“This is to get the experience,” Marsee said. “I don’t foresee us pushing toward the top because there’s several teams that are state-contending teams, but this meet is to kind of see how my young kids handle adversity and pressure of this atmosphere. We’ve always done this to prepare our kids for the bigger meets like districts, regions and states.”
Fort White finished the regular season 4-1 but dropped its first meet in seven years, losing to Bradford. Fort White defeated Santa Fe, Madison County, Hamilton County and Oak Hall and will see some familiar faces at the Invitational, which will feature deejay Jason Nelson.
“He’ll play music throughout the whole meet. The kids love it. They have a blast with that,” Marsee said.
The big attraction, though, is world-record bench press holder Jeremy Hoornstra, who set the world-record with a bench press of 675 pounds in 2014.
Hoornstra will do a bench press exhibition with a single rep somewhere between 625 and 650 pounds. He’ll also do 25 reps of 405 pounds.
“It’s the first year we’ve brought in guests,” Marsee said. “I used to do it when I was in Live Oak, and it always went over really well.”
Wright Equipment is also providing all the equipment — brand new— for the meet. When the meet is over, the company will auction the equipment to the schools to take home right then and there.
It’s an event that’s a good time for the kids but also one that is full of lessons needed to succeed at the district meet.
“It makes districts easy for the kids,” Marsee said. “I always put this meet on for the simple reason — I want to put these kids in the most adverse situation possible. With the loud music, the big crowd, everything going around you — this meet is a lot harder than the state meet, mentally. If you get through this meet, then it makes state look more laid back, and the district meets become real laid back to them, and they just learn to handle it.”