Buchanan, a sophomore at Flagler Palm Coast High School, bench pressed 250 pounds and clean-and- jerked 175 pounds to take home the title.
When Flagler Palm Coast girls weightlifter Lexi Buchanan failed on her first two attempts at the clean-and-jerk in the Class 2A State Championship, she was hysterical.
Competing against the stiffest competition in the state in the unlimited weight class on Saturday, Feb. 3, at Panama City Beach’s Arnold High School, Buchanan was already nervous. With only one chance left to capture the title, she was in tears.
Her coaches and teammates tried desperately to calm her down, but to no avail.
“I’m trying everything I can to get her focused on me,” FPC girls weightlifting coach Duane Hagstrom said. “She wasn’t even in the room mentally. Every time she missed a lift, she got further and further away.”
But of all the words of com- fort and encouragement from her coaches and teammates, it was the words of someone she believed to be her enemy that brought Buchanan back to life.
New Smyrna Beach lifter Aania Simpkins — Buchanan’s primary challenge for the state title — failed to record a score on the bench press, which disqualified her from participating in the rest of the meet.
Buchanan had always thought Simpkins disliked her. Their rivalry across the 2017-18 season was stiff, fierce and back-and-forth (Buchanan topped Simpkins in the regional meet a few weeks prior).
But in a moment of chaos and despair, it was Simpkins’ support that became Buchanan’s fuel.
“I know you’ve got this,” Simpkins told her. “You have to do this. I’ve seen you do it before.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that. That was probably the most courageous thing I have ever seen. To see her suck it up, come out there and pep talk Lexi, knowing that she was her only competition and that she should be battling for rst place, that kind of sportsmanship you don’t see very often.”
FPC coach Duane Hagstrom
On the final lift — the one that would determine if all of Buchanan’s hard work would pay off — there was no doubt. Buchanan clean-and-jerked 175 pounds. Her 250-pound bench press gave her a 425 total, good enough to edge out Oviedo’s Alexi Jones by five points to ensure Buchanan’s first state title.
Buchanan said she experienced a mix of emotions when she found out she was a state champion.
“I was crying. I was so happy,” she said. “I was shocked because you don’t really expect a sophomore, a second-year lifter who never lifted a weight prior to high school, to win a state title.”
At 15 years old, Buchanan has the opportunity so few have had in high school weightlifting: to become a two- or even three-time state champion.
However, Buchanan and Hagstrom said that they’re not too worried about winning titles now that the first one is out of the way.
“We’re only going to worry about breaking records,” Hagstrom said.