Following big wins at the Metro and district tournaments, the Lady Panthers wreaked havoc at regionals — sending five lifters to states in the process.
| 10:30 a.m. January 30, 2019
Few teams in the area have been more dominant than the Dr. Phillips girls weightlifting team, and that showed last weekend at the regional tournament in Lakeland.
Of the 13 athletes who competed in the competition, 12 of them found themselves on the podium with medals around their necks.
“It was unbelievable,” said head coach Ben Sokolowsky. “It was great because everybody stepped up — it was consistent. We don’t always have the top lifters in the state, but we have consistency through the lineup.
“They might not win — we had three overall winners — but every point counts,” he said. “Consistency and depth has been the key this season.”
Those three winners include sisters Jada and Zamora St. Cyr, along with teammate Amani Guzman.
For Jada — who will go down as one of the school’s best in the sport — won the 154-pound weight class with a record-tying 345-pound total lift (which included a record 170-pound on the clean and jerk) to win her second-consecutive regional title. Meanwhile, sister Zamora took home the title in the 129-pound weight class with a total lift of 295 pounds.
In the unlimited division, Guzman smoked the competition as she won her second consecutive regional title with a 385-pound total lift — the 195-pound lift in the clean and jerk set a new school record.
With their big wins, the trio of gold-medal winners — alongside Jessica Corridor (101-pound weight class) and Terriah Scott (199) — will represent Dr. Phillips at the state championship Feb. 8 in Panama City.
“All of the work is coming to fruition out there, so it’s nice,” Sokolowsky said. “I’m proud of the girls. I sent them a nice long text the next day and told them how proud of I was of them and everything.”
The win at regional was just another feather in the cap for the Panthers, who went 4-0 through the regular season before crushing the opposition in the postseason — winning the Metro and district titles.
Although the regular-season win streak is impressive, the more impressive number is 13: the number of consecutive competitions the Panthers have won. That 13-match winning streak helped build confidence among Sokolowsky’s athletes, and it also helped gain the program exposure.
“I have people who don’t lift, and in my P.E. class and even sports — like football players — say, ‘Man, I see what your girls are doing,’ so I mean it’s getting out there,” Sokolowsky said. “It’s starting to be seen out there, it’s a good recruiting tool — I don’t even have to do anything.”
Before the season started, Sokolowsky was out and about around the school trying his best to sell the sport to other athletes — and non-athletes — alike. He’s been the program’s biggest marketer since taking over last year.
But just because the program is seeing some big-time success under his tutelage, don’t expect Sokolowsky to lighten up on his sales pitch any time soon.
The constant work he does — whether selling others on the program or simply coaching — comes from a place of deep love for the sport — and for his girls on the team. Helping them find that success — regardless of the weights they can lift — is the true happiness found in the weight room and out in the field of competition.
“This sport is so mental, because it’s just you versus the weights — you have no teammate to lift it for you and you have no assistance,” Sokolowsky said. “Once they get through that mental hurdle and just do it, just seeing their excitement and their success and their happiness from it … that’s all I want.
“Watching them go up there and get their medals and smile, that’s priceless,” he said. “That’s why I do it.”