In previous years, West Florida High competed in obscurity at the boys state weightlifting championship.
This time, the Jaguars caused a stir.
Led by senior Darryl Davis, who won a state title in the 238-pound division, West Florida High finished sixth overall in the Class 1A championship Saturday at the Kissimmee Civic Center, located near Orlando.
“It was a real good day,” said West Florida High coach Harry Lees, in his third year as weightlifting and head football coach. “We only had two kids ever place in this tournament in the history of the school, so to finish with a state champion and have the team sixth, it’s just huge for us.”
The Jaguars had six lifters qualify in the 10 weight divisions. Three lifters earned points by placing in the top six. Joseph Fernando finished third at 219 pounds. Corey Ness was sixth at 139. Justin Bradford (7th at 199) and Isiah Sanders (8th at 169) barely missed scoring for the team.
“The other coaches didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat, but they were all saying, ‘Hey, where are these kids from West Florida coming from?’
“It makes you feel good. It makes you feel like the school is establishing an identity and hopefully we can continue to qualify lifters for this tournament and keep finishing well.”
Davis, a standout linebacker on the football team, lifted a 670 total pounds, including a personal-best 305 pounds in the clean-and-jerk competition. Davis finished fifth at the state meet last year.
“He has never even done that in practice, but we knew going into his second lift that he needed that much to take over first place,” Lees said. “He had a great day and I could not be more proud of him.”
Panama City Arnold won the state title with 23 points, after five of its lifters scored points. West Florida had 12 points.
Gulf Breeze High senior Austin Droogsma, who competed in the district track meet Friday at Washington High, winning the discus and shot put events, then drove that night to Kissimmee, finished sixth in the heavyweight division. He lifted 685 total pounds.
He was the only other Pensacola area competitor to score in the 1A championship.
“The first year I was at West Florida, I took one kid to the weightlifting meet,” Lees said. “Nobody thought anything of us. Last year we took five and did okay, but this year was totally different.
“It just follows what has been going on with our school in all the sports. It’s kinda neat.”