Boys weightlifting practice started earlier this week, so the Lakewood Ranch High weight room was packed Tuesday afternoon with those hoping to make the state meet. But two young ladies working out in their own little corner of the weight room have already accomplished that goal.
Lindsay Barnes and Cydney Chasky will represent Manatee County in the state weightlifting competition Saturday in New Port Richey.
Everybody expected Barnes to be there, but Chasky came from virtually nowhere. The senior, who competes in the 119-pound weight class, never participated in the sport before this season and her previous athletic experience had come in cross country and track.
"I've always been that little skinny girl type thing, so I started lifting by myself," said Chasky, who transferred to Lakewood Ranch late in her sophomore year after moving from upstate New York. "I decided (to lift this year) because it was my last chance, and I figured I'd be good at it.
"A lot of girls did it to get in shape, but I was like, I'm not going to do this just to joke around."
Barnes said Lakewood Ranch needed some girls to lift in the lower weight classes after losing several athletes to graduation. Chasky fit that bill, but she brought more, Barnes said.
Chasky's work ethic matched that of the top lifters on the program and influenced others to work just as hard with her determination.
"She was quiet," Barnes said. "I had weightlifting class with her, and she never said very much. Weightlifting season came along . . . and I was surprised she came out. She's a cross country runner, and not many cross country runners come out because their muscles are long, not compact. Her frame is tiny."
Chasky does not have the typical weightlifting build. She is tall and thin, but her looks are somewhat deceiving. In some sports, she might be referred to as wiry.
Lakewood Ranch weightlifting assistant Mick Koczersut, who has Chasky in third period lifting class, said she adapted to the sport well because of her athleticism. Once she learned proper technique, Chasky took off as a lifter.
"This was really the first time she ever lifted," Koczersut said. "She was naturally strong when I noticed her in my class, and she works hard. The physical part wasn't going to be any problem for her. It was just a matter of how long she wanted to work at it. She's an exceptional athlete, and she picked it up very fast."
She won the local sub-qualifier and finished third in the state qualifier at Sarasota. Chasky had a total lift of 240 pounds at the qualifier that came from her bench press of 120 and clean and jerk of 120.
Though she won't win a state title, Chasky's goal is to stay consistent and lift at least those numbers again.
An accomplished pole vaulter, Chasky has put off track and field practice through this week as she tries to make the most of a sport she came to late but has learned to appreciate.
Initially surprised she was going to lift weights competitively, Chasky's proud parents now tell her to show off her muscles to family friends. Her family will be there to cheer her on at the state meet.
Chasky has silenced anyone who doubted she could succeed in the sport, and she's made a believer of herself.
"I'm kind of proud that I showed them all," said Chasky, 17, who hopes to go to Florida Gulf Coast University and plans to lift for fun beyond high school. "I like this. I'm into it."