NEW PORT RICHEY - When Lindsay Barnes stepped to the mat for her third and final attempt in the clean and jerk, she battled more than the 155 pounds she needed to lift over her head.
The Lakewood Ranch High junior also took on lingering self doubt and the demons of last year's FHSAA Girls Weightlifting Championships. Another failed attempt at 155 and Barnes would have scratched for the second straight year.
Barnes didn't win the state title Saturday at River Ridge High, but by registering the 155, she cast aside the mental and physical roadblocks that dogged her since last year's meet.
With a total of 320, Barnes took third place in the 139-pound weight class, making her the highest finisher among Manatee County lifters.
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"Last year helped me," Barnes said of the experience she gained. "I told myself I had to get this if I even wanted to place. I tried my hardest. If you come out on top, you come out on top."
Manatee also had a big day as all three of its girls - Jenna Rio (fifth/101 pounds), Cari Kirkland (fifth/183) and Hannah Crowe (sixth/199) - placed in the meet.
But it was Barnes who provided the most drama. After a 165-pound bench press, she entered the final round down by five pounds. She looked confident throughout the bench press, but when Barnes failed on her first clean and jerk of 155, she looked as though she might break down.
Lakewood Ranch coach Don Sauer and Barnes' parents, friends and coaches told her to calm down and regroup. She jumped right back to the platform and once again failed.
"All I had after that second lift was flashbacks to last year," Barnes said, remembering her scratch on the clean and jerk at the state competition in Gainesville.
The look of fear took over Barnes' face, awash in tears. Her mom came down on the court to offer advice, and Sauer offered pointers. Finally, on the third attempt, with her arms shaking and the weight resting precariously above her, Barnes got the OK from the judges to let go.
Her lift was ruled clean, and a relieved Barnes retreated to her sidelines for hugs and congratulations from her cheering section. She'd done it, but questions remained. Enchantre Argro of Longwood Lyman had the same total after her final clean and jerk.
By rule, the girl who weighs the least wins the tiebreaker, but in a oddity, the two girls weighed the exact same - down to the ounce. A second weigh-in was required to determine the winner with Argro (137.6 pounds) coming in lower to claim second place over Barnes (142.4).
It was not the way Barnes wanted to lose, and Lakewood Ranch protested Argro's weight loss tactics, but the result was upheld. Sauer wanted Barnes to remember the positives of Saturday, not the weigh-in.
"I tried to tell Lindsay not to lose the focus on what she just did," Sauer said. "She was on the verge of being eliminated, and she came back and made an unbelievable third attempt. I don't know how many lifters I've seen scratch on that because they are upset. Lindsay fought back and got the lift. She was able to get through it."
Manatee's Crowe and Kirkland made two trips to the awards podium. Each went solo when they received their individual medals, and then the two went back a second time carrying an injured Rio to the center of the court to receive her fifth-place award.
Rio, who finished seventh last year, grabbed her first medal in three trips to state, despite hobbling on a injured left hamstring hurt earlier in the week when she was experimenting with gymnastics.
Though she didn't tell her coaches of the injury, it didn't take them long to ascertain something was wrong. Rio wonders what she could have done in the clean and jerk if she wasn't preoccupied with the pain in her leg that had to be wrapped after the meet.
Next year, as a senior, Rio plans to move up a weight class or two, allowing her to add more muscle and end the struggle to make weight with extensive exercise and diet.