Girl Power: FPC, Matanzas win regional meets
Duane Hagstrom, the head coach of Flagler Palm Coast’s girls weightlifting team, is an imposing figure. With each meet, each victory, he is poised, controlled — never letting his emotions get the better of him. In the Bulldogs’ wins at the conference championship and district championship, he was as stoic as ever.
The Bulldogs had only completed half their goal. At the start of the season, FPC set the task of winning the conference, district, regional and placing top three in states.
“It was tough, and it’s going to be tougher, but I think we still have a good chance at meeting the goal we set at the beginning of the season,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, but I’m so proud of these girls. They’ve become a big family. If you look at their faces, they’re all happy and crying. I’m starting to get a little teary-eyed here.”
The Bulldogs topped runner-up New Smyrna Beach 50-43 and had four individual champions: Keilee Gocking (101 pounds), Anisa Zwolinski (169), Taliyah Lloyd (199) and Lexi Buchanan (unlimited).
Buchanan, who bench pressed 250 pounds and clean-and-jerked 190 pounds, edged New Smyrna Beach’s Aania Simpkins — Buchanan’s top competition for the state title in the unlimited weight class.
“I’m not going to celebrate this win for too long,” she said. “This day is gone. It’s over with. I’ve got to get back to the weight room now.”
The Class 2A championships are set for Feb. 3 at Arnold High School in Panama City Beach.
Pirates win third regional in a row
Entering the Pirates girls weightlifting team’s regional meet on Wednesday, Jan. 17, a lifter from Atlantic High School was the favorite to take the top spot in the 101-pound weight class. But at the weigh-in that morning, she came in at 101.2 pounds.
She was disqualified.
As a result, Jessica Gesek, Matanzas’ 85-pound senior, took home the top spot to advance to the state meet.
Gesek, who also suffers from scoliosis, has been on the team for four years. On Wednesday, she clean-and-jerked 85 pounds — a personal record.
“She always pushes through the pain,” Pirates coach Sara Novak said. “She’s been working hard all season. It was nice to see her have success after all those years of hard work.”
Matanzas took a share of the title with Pedro Menendez at the Region 4-1A meet at Pedro Menendez High School. It was the Pirates’ third regional title in a row, making them the first team to accomplish that feat in school history.
Including Gesek, the Pirates had four individual champions: Katie Welker (110), Juliana Smith (199) and Chiara Longo (Unlimited).
Novak said she initially offered her team a day of rest ahead of the state championship. They didn’t want it.
“It’s nice to see girls not wanting to take time off and having athletes who really want to push and succeed,” she said. “Some people want to rest. But not this team.”
The Class 1A championships are set for Feb. 2 at Arnold High School in Panama City Beach.