Arnold girls earn back-to-back weightlifting state championships

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Back to back at the M.A.C.

Hosting the FHSAA girls weightlifting state championship, the Marlins clinched their second consecutive title on the backs of five placers, two individual champs, and a new FHSAA record holder.

The Marlins edged Leesburg for the team title 26-20, with Emily Bennett and Amerie Daniels claiming class crowns. Bennett placed first in the 129 division with a 200 lb. bench and 185 clean and jerk hit on a dramatic final attempt. Daniels earned the 154 title by benching 170 and set the new state record with a 225 clean and jerk to secure the team title.

"The feeling we had when Amerie hit that 225 clean and jerk and secured the state title, you couldn't pay us enough to compete with that feeling," Arnold coach Josh Flaig said. "We're really excited. The girls work hard. My wife works hard. I try to do what I can, but we absolutely love it."

It's far more than a year's worth of work for Daniels and Bennett, culminating in a surreal moment they'll remember forever.

"To be honest with you, I couldn't hear anything," Daniels said, recalling her record breaking lift. "It was more like my ears were covered, even though they weren't. I was just hearing noises, I had no clue what was going on."

"Coming up to that platform, knowing that my entire weightlifting career and my entire weightlifting team is depending on this one lift," Bennett said, "I just lowered my head and raised my thoughts to God and said 'give me the new strength that you gave Samson'. That really hit me and he was like 'I'm giving you that new strength to go out and get it. And I could feel the pressure of everybody's eyes looking at me and everybody's voices screaming at me. And I canceled it out and I just lifted the weight. I had to!"

Altha's Nikki Richards is the Panhandle's second state record holder, earning first in the 119 division and setting the Florida standard with a total weight for 370 pounds, comprised for 185 in each discipline.

"I was like, 'I have to get this,' Richards said. "That was my goal since last year, so I was pretty proud of myself whenever I got it over my head and I saw those white lights. Yes, it might not have looked like I was excited, but inside I was."

The state meet conclude with the 2A competition on Saturday.

1A Area Placers:

101 Division
2nd - Emily Oliver - Arnold

119 Division
1st - Nikki Richards - Altha
2nd - Sana Habib - Arnold
5th - Madison Prumatico - Arnold

129 Division
1st - Emily Bennett - Arnold
4th - Braeden Smith - Altha

154 Division
1st - Amerie Daniels - Arnold
5th - Lala Little - Choctaw

199 Division
6th - Macie Love - Choctaw

Unlimited Division
3rd - Shantell Moore - Choctaw

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