Weightlifting can often get overlooked when compared to more traditional sports.
But this year in prep sports, the significance of weightlifting was unmistakable, noted by the academic scholarship winners (sponsored and presented by Troy Rafferty) at the ninth annual PNJ All-Sports Awards banquet, held Wednesday night at the Saenger Theater.
For both girls and boys, the scholarship winner was a weightlifter, a repeat state champion, a state-record setter and a strong student.
At Navarre, Kylie Shelley earned the honor after consecutive state championship wins in the 119-pound weight class. She now holds state records with a 190-pound bench press and a three-lift total of 350 pounds. She was named the News Journal’s Girls Weightlifter of the Year, in addition to being awarded the academic scholarship winner Wednesday.
“When (I was announced as the scholarship winner) I was very excited … I immediately looked at my Mom and noticed that she was in shock,” Shelley said. “This year’s team made my weightlifting experience amazing. I’ve never seen a team as good as us this year … we had some freaks.”
While she has yet to decide where she will enroll for school next year, it is likely that she will remain close to home with the University of West Florida, Pensacola State College or the University of South Alabama all on her radar.
“I want to give a big thanks to Troy Rafferty and my coach Garrett Bagley, who has always inspired me,” Shelley said. “I will miss weightlifting the most out of my high school memories. Weightlifting changed my whole life.”
For the boys, Pace’s Tom Piscopo has established a similar resume. His 325-pound clean and jerk — a state record — certainly won’t be forgotten anytime soon. And he will continue to pursue his olympic dream when he enrolls at Northern Michigan University — which doubles as a U.S. Olympic training site.
“There’s not a lot of money in weightlifting, with it being an amateur sport, so this scholarship will really help,” said Piscopo. “The people around (Northern Michigan University) are the friendliest I’ve ever met. I love the Pensacola area, it definitely made me tough. But up there, the people are super nice.”
Piscopo mentioned that he went through tough times as an underclassmen at Pace and will always pull for local weightlifters striving to compete after high school.
“High school was pretty rough for me at times,” Piscopo said. “I’m gonna miss my teammates. We all came together and fought adversity. I’m gonna miss helping freshmen, and showing them that weightlifting can take you somewhere. We’re all team USA and we are all going to end up in the same place if we continue as weightlifters. I want everyone to help everyone around here.”
In addition to the scholarship winners and the players of the year in each sport, the PNJ crowned a girls and boys athlete of the year, which spread across all sports.
Pine Forest’s Britney Snowden — a four-year starter and a leader of the 29-0 state championship team — earned the honor after averaging a double-double her senior year. She will stay close to the area, as she has committed to play basketball at Northwest Florida State in Niceville.
“Honestly, my mom told me before that I was either going to win the scholarship or the athlete of the year,” said Snowden, with an ear-to-ear smile. “I wasn’t cocky about it, because I knew my whole team came together to win that state championship. I kind of expected someone else to win the award, but I really thank the PNJ for selecting me.”
Snowden added that she will aim to keep in touch with her former teammates, but it is evident that she will never lose her competitive spirit.
“We may stay in touch, but we are all going to be playing against each other,” said Snowden, referring to Jymetrea Jones, Ty Purifoy and Laneisha Jeans, who will all be playing at the junior-college level next season. “There won’t be any sparing feelings … it’s gonna be balls to the wall. But I think we will stay in touch a bit.”
Pace’s Quaide Weimerskirch earned the boys athlete of the year, after a legacy-leaving career at Pace.
After racking up more than 4,600 rushing yards in his career, Pace Patriots for years to come will strive to achieve what Weimerskirch accomplished.
He has already enrolled at Georgia Tech and begun workouts with the football team. His hard-nosed running style should mesh well with the Yellow Jackets triple-option attack.
“Thank you so much for Male Athlete of the year,” Weimerskirch”” said in a direct message on Twitter. “It means a lot! Wish I was able to accept it myself.”
PNJ All-Sports Honorees
•Offensive Player — Quaide Weimerskirch, Pace
•Defensive Player — Chris Terrell, Tate
•MVP — Gerold Bright, Escambia
•Coach — Harry Lees, West Florida
•Player — Sina Faulk, Catholic
•Coach — Guilio Simonelli, Catholic
•Girls golfer — Madison Pacheco, Pensacola
•Boys golfer — Bryce Geraghty, Gulf Breeze
•Coach — Adam Smith, Gulf Breeze
•Girls runner — Raleigh Nesbitt, West Florida
•Boys runner — Micah Kemp, Jay
•Coach — Scott Denny, Pace
•Girls swimmer — Tori Bindi, Gulf Breeze
•Boys swimmer — Steffen Mount, Washington
•Coach — Megan Oberholtzer, Washington
•Girls player — Britney Snowden, Pine Forest
•Girls coach — Chris Godwin, Pine Forest
•Boys player — DJ Laster, Catholic
•Boys coach — Terrence Harris, Pensacola
•Girls player — Briana Schubeck, West Florida
•Girls coach — Rob Simon, Navarre
•Boys player — Kam Bethell, Navarre
•Boys coach — Zac Preston, Navarre
•Wrestler — Blake Doerr, Gulf Breeze
•Girls lifter — Kylie Shelley, Navarre
•Boys lifter — Tom Piscopo, Pace
•Hitter — Carl Gindl, Catholic
•Pitcher — Matt Cronin, Navarre
•Coach — Marty Lister, Northview
•Hitter — Payton Carpenter, Pace
•Pitcher — Tori Perkins, Tate
•Coach — Melinda Wyatt, Tate
•Girls player — Lizzie Nowak, Catholic
•Boys player — Chris Ephron, Catholic
•Coach — Geoff Watts, Catholic
Track and Field
•Girls athlete — Jessie Droogsma, Gulf Breeze
•Boys athlete — Dominique Craig, Milton
•Coach — Jeff Oliver, West Florida
Rafferty Cup Winner
West Florida High
Rafferty Scholarship Awards
•Female — Kylie Shelley, Navarre
•Male — Tom Piscopo, Pace
Athletes of the Year
•Female — Britney Snowden, Pine Forest
•Male — Quaide Weimerskirch, Pace