Dr. Phillips girls weightlifting breaks records | Observer Preps

At Dr. Phillips High School, a group of young weightlifters are showing they have what it takes to be the best.

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  • | 11:03 a.m. November 14, 2018
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Deep in the recesses of Dr. Phillips High, 27 girls take to the school’s weight room to train.

A black-and-white poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing sits taped to the wall, overlooking as the DP girls weightlifting team works to hone their own muscles.

Angelle Domingue steps up to the deadlift platform, plants her feet with a sturdy confidence and grabs the bar that sits in front of her.

With one fell swoop, she dips her body as the bar flies and rests on her clavicle. Another swift motion sees the bar go above her head as she stands there, posing with fierce concentration before dropping the bar back to planet Earth.

The fitness and mental aspects of weightlifting require a lot, but for Domingue, stepping up to the bar is all in believing in yourself.

“Really, what goes through my mind is, ‘Just do it,’” Domingue said. “Don’t say you can’t do it, because sometimes, I touch weight that I’ve never touched before. I use to get scared, like, ‘No coach I can’t do it,’ and stuff like that, but then he has taught me to just do it. 

“Now, at all my meets, I just do it,” she said. “I block out everything.”

Domingue — who lifts in the 169-pound weight class — originally played flag football before starting weightlifting last year after seeing her sister do it the year before.

Outside of seeing her sister participate in the sport, Domingue had no experience. But what a difference a year makes.

Like the other girls on the team, she started by working on technique in the bench and clean-and-jerk — the two events in which high schools compete —  by using just the bar. Now, she is benching 145 pounds and hitting 155 pounds in the clean-and-jerk.

In her first match of the year against Edgewater, Domingue shattered a school record for total lift as she hit 290 pounds — sneaking past Evita Gyimah’s 280-mark set in 2009.

Many of the girls on the team — such as Domingue and sisters Zamora and Jada St. Cyr — come from different sports, said second-year head coach Ben Sokolowsky.

“The bench press obviously comes a lot easier — most people have done at least a push up — but the clean-and-jerk requires a whole other level of commitment and dedication and a heck of a lot of technique,” Sokolowsky said. “You have to spend a ton of time with no weights — PVC pipes or just the bar — so the technique is essential. A lot of them (who) are good at their sport are disciplined in those area — techniques and basic fundamentals.”

In the case of Jada St. Cyr, wrestling is her main sport of choice, and for good reason — because she is good. Earlier this year, Jada, a senior, finished third place in the 140-pound division, which helped the Panthers bring home the 2018 Florida girls wrestling state championships. She was joined on the team by wrestling teammate Amani Guzman — who won the state title at 287 pounds.

The transition from wrestling to weightlifting was somewhat of a smooth transition for Jada, especially as it relates to the mental aspect between the two sports.

“Wrestling is so mental it’s ridiculous,” Jada said. “When you want to give up and you’re about to cave, you don’t — you push through and keep fighting. For weightlifting, it was kind of the same thing, because I had to force myself (to say), ‘It’s OK, it’s just one more load.’… And in wrestling it was, ‘OK, first period is almost up,’ things like that.”

The mental side of weightlifting begins before stepping onto the platform. For Zamora, who was playing basketball when Sokolowsky noticed her, the pre-match routine became an important part of her adjustment to weightlifting.

“I also focus on what you have to do,” Zamora said. “Don’t always worry about the other numbers that everyone else has — worry about what you have. Because if you’re stressed about other people’s numbers, ‘Oh I need to get to them,’ it’s going to mess you up, and your head is not going to be where it needs to be at.”

That mentality is exactly what Sokolowsky seeks in his athletes, and it’s what the Panthers will need to have another successful year.

“What motivates me is people’s stereotype that girls can’t be strong — I don’t want to be that female that can’t do nothing for myself,” Domingue said. “I feel like girls can be strong too, in all aspects of life.”


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