PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The 2020 1A FHSAA state weightlifting meet was another unforgettable one for host Arnold High School, going back-to-back inside The M.A.C. to earn their second team championship.
The Marlins' effort was highlighted by an individual title and state record for Amerie Daniels, a 225 pound clean and jerk to seal the deal in the afternoon, but the team crown could not have been won without Emily Bennett.
The senior was shooting for a total weight state record in the 129 pound division, but fell short on her first two clean and jerk attempts...setting the stage not for a record, but the most dramatic and important moment of her lifting life.
"I had people I've never met before telling me, 'I couldn't breath when Bennett was going for that third clean and jerk," head coach Josh Flaig recalled. "We did not want her to miss it!"
"You've got to be tough," Bennett said. "Flaig kept telling me, 'you've got to be tough for ten seconds' because on the first two attempts I couldn't breath when I stood up. Coming up to that platform, knowing that my entire weightlifting career and my entire team was depending on this one lift, I just lowered my head and raised my thoughts to God and I 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. Go out and get it.' And I could feel the pressure of everybody's eyes looking at me, everybody's voices screaming at me. I canceled it out. I lifted the weight. I had to!"
She did, putting up 185 pounds on the final try.
"Oh my gosh, I cannot explain how much courage and strength and mental fortitude it takes to be in that position," Flaig gushed. "She looked at me and said, 'Coach, it's not even about the state record anymore. I can't let the team down.'"
"You know, I was telling everybody, 'it's my senior year, go out with a bang!' Obviously not the bang I was expecting, but it's something that will definitely be memorable, not only for me but for my team," Bennett said. "Hopefully one of these days, when they are struggling in the weight room, struggling in life or anything, they'll just remember: persevere. Just push through and you can do it."
Without Bennett's successful lift, the Marlins would have missed the team state championship by one point. Instead, they edged Leesburg 26-20 and Bennett won the individual title.
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