Vernon, FL---All those teams hoping to get to the state finals. In the sport of weightlifting, the finals are this weekend in Kissimmee, and a group of Vernon lifters are chasing both individual and team glory down there.
It's a group of five that's been of starting that program from scratch and is laying the groundwork for a formidable team in the future.
Respect. It's gained with every lift. With every drop of sweat. With each new max. Respect is never handed out, respect is earned.
In their first season back in competition, the Vernon Yellow Jackets had to respect this grind before expecting respect from their peers.
"It's not just about changing attitude," says Vernon weightlifting coach Bobby Johns "it's about changing culture. And these kids have bought in."
Brandon Malloy, a Vernon Senior who competes in the 169 pound class agrees. "We work for hours and that's what I think helps us the most. We work harder than anyone else in the state."
Vernon Sophomore, 219 LB
"It's pretty tough," says Darrion Peterson, a Vernon sophomore in the 219 class "but when you keep working at it, it gets easier. They're putting four and a half, a solid four to four and a half hours a day in, four days a week. Some days, you don't want to be here, other days you do."
Another Vernon sophomore, Ryan Malloy, who lifts in the 139 class says it's not always easy putting in this much time in the weight room. "It can be fun sometimes. But other times, you're just in a constant struggle."
Five lifters are off to state. They look at Coach Johns, who's won titles as an athlete and coach, and respect his role in their success.
Vernon Senior, 183 LB
"Coach Johns has pushed us and made us work hard just to get to that stage." says Jay Padgett, a senior in the 183 class.
Marlon Stephens, a sophomore in the 238 class says "He's told me that he believes in me and if I believe in what I'm doing, then I'll be successful. I want to work hard and never give up, don't quit the team, and I want to prove to him I'm not a quitter."
As year one ends, Johns hopes state can be the push his program needs and earn what they've fought for.
"If our kids go in there like they're supposed to and have their best day," says coach Johns "we'll have a chance for maybe a top five place. We'll be able to get there and get some respect so to speak to give us a chance because we do want a chance to compete for the team title next year."
We'll let you know how the Vernon and all the area lifters fare down there, the 1A meet tomorrow, the 2A meet Saturday.