The really important competitions — the ones where weightlifters either do well or have their seasons end — are still ahead.
Only pride and bragging rights were truly at stake on Wednesday at the Manatee County boys weightlifting championship at Manatee High School.
Don’t tell that to David Centeno, a senior from Palmetto in the 129-pound weight class.
“I do not train to come in second place,” Centeno said after receiving his first-place medal following lifts of 210 in the bench press and 155 in the clean and jerk for a 365 total. “I have been working all through high school and it has led to this moment.”
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Centeno hopes there will be more moments like Wednesday’s in the weeks ahead. The district competition for Palmetto is scheduled for next Wednesday at Lakewood Ranch. The area’s smaller schools have their district meet at Englewood Lemon Bay on Friday.
Given the county championship was the last tuneup for individuals before district, the meet provided a valuable measuring tool.
“A lot of kids hit their personal best, and all we can ask is that they continue to try and improve,” Palmetto head coach Dave Marino said.
Marino also hopes those who came close to winning or to finishing in the medals, such as Nahum Guerrero at 169 pounds, will use the near miss as motivation over the next week. Guerrero lost to Jernard Porter, of Manatee, by five pounds in total weight (300-250—550 to 295-250—545) and the two will battle again at districts.
The competition is not the only benefit of the event coming so close to districts.
“They had a good set of judges that called everything from a technical standpoint, and that will be a great experience for us heading into districts,” Braden River coach Spencer Hodges said.
In the team competition, host Manatee, which brought a larger contingent of lifters than any of the other five county schools that participated, used that depth to coast to the team title.
“We know we have to leave it all out there to win next week at districts and tonight was the first step,” Manatee head coach Rich Lansky said.
In support of that team title, Manatee earned five individual weight class champions. Joining Porter were Cameron Kierns (139), Kevin Townsend (199), Josh Booker (219) and Seth Walter (239).
Bayshore had one champion, Uriel Sanchez, who won at 119 with a total lift of 260.
“Just outworking and competing against the opponent allowed me to win tonight,’ Sanchez said. “I see what they can do and try to do 5 more pounds.”
The heavyweight class was a battle between Lakewood Ranch lifter Bailey Jackson and Palmetto’s Corey Brady. Jackson needed the largest bench press of the day, 365 pounds, to secure the victory. Jackson was one of two Mustangs individual champions, joining Michael Mellquist at 183 pounds.
Palmetto also had two champions, Ricky Ochoa (154) and Centeno.