Not many coaches can describe an athlete as a "blessing."
Ridgewood High girls weightlifting coach J.D. Baker has such an athlete.
"Victoria Schaefer was a very important leader," Baker said. "It is a huge blessing. We have 12 who work very hard. It starts with her. She is a dedicated athlete and dedicated student."
Schaefer, a native of Dunedin and a senior, also has done what every girl weightlifter wants. She competed at the state meet last February, finishing 10th in the 119-pound class. She was also third in the Sunshine Athletic Conference last year.
Schaefer is the kind of athlete every coach wants. Not only is she an accomplished lifter but an exceptional student. She has a 4.1-weighted GPA and is taking advanced placement classes. She will take courses at Pasco-Hernando Community College and plans to become a nurse and physical therapist.
As a lifter, Schaefer has a best bench press of 130 pounds and a clean-and-jerk of 120 pounds. She hopes to bench 150 pounds at state and is working very hard to reach that goal.
She has her own unique reasons for lifting.
"I started because I wanted to do better in volleyball,'' said Schaefer, who was instrumental in Ridgewood's volleyball team winning its district in November. "It makes me feel better.
"There's a team aspect. I hear other girls yelling that you can lift the weight and it's very encouraging. I enjoy the camaraderie."
She has had two coaches help her along the way.
"Coach Matt Reed helped me get to state,'' she said. "He was a really good coach. Coach Baker has stepped in real well this year. He is a good coach. He pushes me."
Baker said she had some knee problems but has overcome that.
Schaefer may be able to help herself and perhaps other Ram lifters reach the state meet in Kissimmee.