West Orange High girls weightlifting seeks success | Observer Preps

A roller-coaster season for the Warriors has led to lessons learned as the program continues to grow.

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  • | 11:00 a.m. January 30, 2019
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In the weight room at West Orange High, Stephen Parker has his girls weightlifting team going through its routine.

As junior Khiana Franklin walks up to the bar that sits in front of her, she loosens herself up while teammates shout supportive words. She grips the bar and cleanly brings it above her collarbone, before tossing it over her head.

There’s no real pressure here — it’s just a practice, after all — but it’s in this weight room where the Warriors prepare, and it’s where Parker is teaching his craft within a program looking to grow and find success.

“My biggest enjoyment — and this has been why I got involved coaching girls — is that you still see a pure enjoyment or satisfaction of success,” Parker said. “You take one of these girls who hasn’t lifted much — or lifted at all — and they accomplish a lift, and you get them to compete a little bit and start trying to beat the girl next to them, and then they actually win a trophy or stick a big lift, you see that enjoyment.”

This season has had its great moments, but it’s also largely been one of high ups and downs so far, which is to be expected for a growing program.


Parker and his girls came into the season without several seniors who played a big role in the successes of last season, when the Warriors won districts and finished as runners-up in the Metro and state regionals.

The core quad of Eumica Eugene (154-pound weight class), Trinity Leath (139), Shermyra Harp (129) and Khiana Franklin (199) all returned this season to help the Warriors through three wins in their four regular-season matches.

“We had a good core, but the problem is this year, we didn’t really grow in size in the number of girls  who come out and participate, so we were reliant on those same girls,” Parker said. 

That issue during the regular season is tough enough, but it’s an incredibly difficult task come postseason. Since signing on to be a coach on the girls wrestling team in 2013, it’s something that Parker has become familiar with.

With the lack in numbers, the Warriors team was hit hardest going into Metro and districts, Parker said. Without the numbers, it’s hard to fill out a weight bracket — which means losing out on important points.

A combination of lack of depth and Shermyra getting sick around Metro/district meets led the Warriors to finish seventh (out of 10) at Metro and 10th (out of 10) at districts. Although finding numbers for sports such as girls weightlifting is difficult, Parker said the biggest issue was trying to get the staff in place to help establish a routine for the girls.

“This was the first year that we had to go through that transition of not having a fall sport coach, or having a coach who was not in a fall sport, to start us out — I think that probably weighed a little bit more there, but I don’t think we lost too much,” Parker said. “With every season comes its own complications. This year, it just happened to be at the administrative level. We found out what worked and didn’t work, and we will be a little bit better with that next year.”

Those competitions were a tough blow, but along with those lows came some pretty impressive highs — especially at regional.

“My biggest enjoyment — and this has been why I got involved coaching girls — is that you still see a pure enjoyment or satisfaction of success.”

— Stephen Parker

Despite an 11th-place finish, Franklin took home first place in her weight class with a 320-pound total lift (150 on the bench and 170 in the clean-and-jerk), which catapulted her to states. The achievement is something that didn’t surprise Parker; Franklin won in regionals last year, as well.

“She has a good chance at placing in the state championship,” Parker said. “She’s been a competitor ever since I had her as a freshman — she’s just a very competitive young lady. Physically and muscularly, she is in good shape, so weightlifting happened to be a natural fit for her.”

While Franklin travels down to Panama City Beach for states in just two weeks, Parker will continue to adjust game plans and look ahead to next season.

Having competitors make it to states is incredible for the program, but if the team as a whole could attain that same high performance level, it could lead to great things, Parker said.

“What we really want to do is try to have a concentrated effort on getting that whole team to where the team walks in, and who we are competing against knows they’re going to face a regional/state contender at each weight class,” Parker said. “That takes a little time and some work, and again, I think it takes the girls getting used to a routine. … I think we have done a pretty good job establishing some of that, and we are here to do that.”


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