State’s best lifters to flex all weekend

The best high school weightlifters in the state are rolling
into Gulf County this week, as they prepare to see which team, and which
lifters, are the very best in the state.

In a joint arrangement between Wewahitchka and Port St. Joe
high schools, and a first for the Gulf County Schools, the district will host
the Florida High School Athletic Association’s 2021 Boys Weightlifting State
Championships for Class 1A and 2A this weekend.

Port St. Joe High School’s R. Marion Craig Coliseum will be
closed on Friday, April 23 as the Class 1A athletes compete to see who is the
very best. On Saturday, the school will host the Class 2A competition.

“Between 1A and 2A there’s a lot of really good lifters,
with some really big totals,” said Wewa weightlifting coach Bobby Johns, whose
statewide renown in the sport was essential to bringing the state championship
to the county. He and Port St Joe High School Athletic Director Tanner Jones are
co-chairing this event.

Johns is coordinating the competition portion of the state
meet, and his wife, Chevonell, the hospitality portion of the meet, essential
to the success of an event that brings together scores of boys, with hearty
appetites, and their families.

But when Friday’s Class 1A competition gets underway Friday at
9:30 a.m. Central, with the five smaller classes in the morning for Flight 1, and
the second five in the afternoon for Flight 2, Johns will be busy doing what he
does best, coaching his Gator boys into the dominant program it has become.
Johns said Deak Story, the event’s technical consultant, will hold the reins Friday
while the veteran coach is busy working to get his Gators a shot at a state

Johns predicts a state Class 1A title for Keystone Heights,
with Wewa battling it out with Baker, Mount Dora and Union County for where
they’ll end up in the next three slots.

“Keystone Heights should unless something happens,” he said,
basing it on an analysis of where their athletes stand when it comes to their
best bench presses and clean-and-jerks.

“We have four guys with a chance to score,” said Johns,
reflecting on the Gator’s runner-up achievement against Baker at the April 10 regionals
they hosted, and won.

“We knew it was us and Baker going in,” he said. “We felt the
most we could score was 31. When you have other teams, Baker was able to pick
up a couple points here and there when some scratched, and some didn’t show.

“They did a better job than we did,” Johns said.

Wewa took two eighth graders with them to regionals, Jake Parker
and Gabe Miller, both in the 119-pound class. Neither earned any points, as
they didn’t finish in the top six, but it was a valuable learning experience
for the boys.

“Jake had a really good day, and in the last lift, had he
made it, he would have qualified for the state meet. I think that would have
been good for him.”

Rutherford eighth grader Eric Olds won the weight class,
with a combined 325 pounds lifted, 20 more than Blountstown junior EJ Robinson.

In the 129-pound weight class, it was a battle between
Liberty County senior Caleb Shiver, and Wewa senior Keegan Calhoun, with the
former’s 410 pounds besting the latter’s 405 pounds.

“Keegan had a bad day,” Johns said. “He had been able to
beat that guy twice leading into it. After posting a 220 bench, the most he did
this year, we thought he was in pretty good shape.”

The problem was in the clean-and-jerk, when Calhoun, after
missing his first two, decided not to chance it on his third and final try, and
so stayed at 185, and nailed it, rather than shooting for the win.

“We couldn’t take a chance, he had to go back to 185 a third
time,” said Johns.

It’s going to be a four-way battle for second place in his
weight class,” the coach predicted. “We’re hoping Keegan can take it.

To do so, he’s going to have to shoot for a 425-pound total,
maybe starting with a 225 bench.

“There are several guys more than capable,” said Johns.

Wewa didn’t have any competitors at regionals in the 139
class, which was won by Baker sophomore Carter Glenn, with a 420 total, 15
better than Rutherford sophomore Romero Black.

In the 154-pound class, Wewa junior Treston Smith was dominant,
lifting a 315 bench and a 275 clean and jerk, for a 590 total, 115 pounds
better than Baker junior Brandon Moss.

“He had his best day, which is what we hope for,” said Johns.
“He’s got to have another one this week.”

Smith is heading into Friday’s state championship after
posting a personal best clean and jerk, and a best total, at regionals.

“if we hit 315 on bench, he can win with his first clean and
jerk, and then were going to shoot for 600 total,” said Johns. “The bottom line
is we’re hoping he can win a state championship with his first clean and jerk.
It all depends what we do on the bench.”

In the 169-pound weight class, Florida High senior Keegan McGilvray
won regionals with a 510 total, 15 pounds better than Port St. Joe sophomore
Tad Russell, and 30 pounds better than Wewa’s Tremaine Booker, in third place.

“Tad Russell has a chance to score at the state meet, I
think he’s hitting at seventh,” said Johns.

The coach said Booker “had a decent day on the bench, not a
good day on the clean-and-jerk. If he could go 500, we can steal a point for
him. He’s been at 495, he might steal a point.”

In the 183-pound class, Wewa sophomore Joey Salerno managed
to qualify for state after finishing sixth, with a 495-pound total, 70 pounds
less than the winner Madison County’s Jeremy McKnight.

“Joey had his worst day all year long, 25 pounds below his
best,” said Johnson. “We expect him to challenge this week, if he were to
really have a good day.”

With a 550 total likely to earn a sixth place finish at
state, Salerno has his work cut out for him, but Johns isn’t writing him off. “It’s
just hard to make up that much ground,” he said.

In the 199-pound class, Madison County’s Keshaun Mitchell
bested Wewa junior Alex Williams by 30 pounds, 640 to 610, to win it. Port St.
Joe junior Aiden Gainer finished fourth at regionals. With a 555 total, and
Wewa junior Braxton Durden was sixth, with a 515 total.

“We knew the kid from 
Madison County was a really good lifter,” Johns said.

As it turned out. Williams stepped off the platform on his
second clean-and-jerk, and had to redo it, thwarting his hope to go to 330.

“We had to, we didn’t want to lose any points with Alex,”
said the coach. “We’ll chase him this week. We need the guy from Madison to not
have a great day.

“Alex’s got to get his first two clean and jerks to lock up
second,” said Johns. “He won’t be able to chase until his third lift. He’s
going to get one chance.”

Johns said he thinks Gainer will score, although “he’s probably
locked into fourth at best.”

Durden was moved down to the 199-pound class for regionals,
and Johns is foreseeing his capable of upping his total by another 15 pounds,
which may or may not enable him to score points.

In the 219 pound class, won by Sneads’ Jack O’Brian with a
600 total, Port St. Joe’s Saylor Tull was fourth, with a 580. Wewa’s Caden
Wooten also competed, but was unable to crack the top six.

In the 238-pound class, Wewa senior Christian Mann finished
runner-up at regionals to Blountstown junior Logan Martin, who bested the field
at 650 pounds, 25 better than Mann.  Port
St. Joe sophomore DJ Oliver was fourth, at 590,

“Christian’s best is 630, we knew we could probably not
catch the guy from Blountstown,” said Johns.

Mann had the same 625 total as Bay junior Kenneth McManigal,
but he finished ahead of his rival because he is about a pound-and-one-half

“We have to beat McManigal; it’s going to be battle between
him and Christian for either third or fourth,” said the coach. “Our region is
really good compared to other regions.”

In the Unlimited class, Marianna senior Markevar Hunter, who
weighs 440 pounds, won with a 695 total, 40 pounds ahead of Liberty County
sophomore Riley Graham. Wewa junior Briceson Davis competed in that category
but didn’t finish in the top six.

Expect a second big day of excitement at Saturday’s Class 2A
state meet, where there will be Arnold and Mosely and other teams from the

Johns said three Class 2A lifters have 700-pound or better
totals, one in the 238-pound weight class and two in the unlimited. He said he
expects West Nassau, Marianna and Dunellon will be in the thick of things when
it comes to vying for top honors, but of course, anything can happen.

If you want to save some money, go to Go Fan at https://gofan.co/ and buy your tickets online,
where the cost is only $9 a session. At the door, it’s $12 at the door per
flight, so two full days of excitement will set you back almost 50 bucks.

Well worth it, to watch these hard-working athletes perform
against their top rivals from around the state.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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