PUNTA GORDA -- The girls region weightlifting meet doesn't leave any room for error. Only the winners in each weight class qualify for states, and the rest of the competitors will have to wait about five days to see if they made the cut.
Manatee High's Brooke Schamber and Heather Ball had waited long enough, putting in a grueling year of training, and both punched a ticket to states in helping the Hurricanes tie for second in the team scores Wednesday in the Class 2A-Region 8 meet at Charlotte High.
They were the only two lifters from Manatee County to ensure themselves a spot in the state meet, which will be held in Kissimmee on Feb. 6.
Schamber, who took the 154-pound title with 285 points, began getting ready for this day a year ago when she changed her training methods.
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"Last year I ran a lot and that prevented me from getting better, and I stopped all that," Schamber said. "My coach always said you can't run and lift at the same time. I threw away the running and got 45 pounds better from last season. I was crying I am so excited."
Ball lifted at 110 last year and missed going to states by five pounds. Competing in the 101-pound class at 93.8 pounds, she edged teammate Jenna Sypula (98.8 pounds) to get first place. They both totaled 230 pounds (for bench and clean and jerk), but Ball's lower body weight was the tie-breaker.
"Jenna was right there with me and really pushed me to get that last lift in," Ball said. "I am really really excited to be going to states and hope Jenna is going to be there. We are workout buddies and always encouraging each other. She is the best thing that ever happened to me weightlifting wise."
The first-place finishers in each of the eight regions qualify for states and the next best 12 scorers in the state in each weight class also qualify.
The field might not be determined until Monday. with the last region meet scheduled for Saturday.
Along with Sypula, Manatee had two other girls finish second: Madison Johnston in the 154-pound class with 275 points (120 bench/155
clean and jerk), and Callie Nichols at 129 pounds with 275 points ((125/150).
"It's a waiting game now, but I am confident we will get at least one more girl to qualify. If you place second or third in a good competitive region, you have a shot to go," Manatee head coach Rich Lansky said. "I think at least one of our second place girls will go, maybe two. But everybody did well. I am happy.
The other top finishers from Manatee County included Palmetto High's Elizabeth Atkinson, who was second in the 199-pound weight division with 300 points (150/155), and Manatee High's Natasha Walsh, third in the unlimited division with 300 points (135/165). Schamber recorded a 135-pound lift in the bench and 150 in the clean and jerk.
"Heather and Brooke trained all year round and dedicated themselves to qualify for states, and we are going to see if we can pull out a medal," Lansky said. "Brooke was doing a lot of endurance work for track and cross country, and I told her that's not what weightlifters do, you have to be explosive, and she bought into it."
Charlotte won the team competition with 64 points, while Manatee and Sunlake tied for second with 39 points each.
"We are making progress every year and I am thinking next year maybe we can make a push. This is our best finish in the eight meet," Lansky said.