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Wednesday, Jul 09, 2014

Sunlake’s Valdes lifts magic number


Catalina Valdes was growing impatient.

She was holding 130 pounds of barbell over her head and getting tired.

“Shoot the picture,” she emphatically told Sunlake High coach Denise Garcia.

Garcia snapped the photo and Valdez dropped the barbell.

Valdes was paying the price for becoming a local girls weightlifting sensation. The junior hit 200 pounds on the bench press Nov. 20 during the meet at Mitchell High.

Hitting 200 pounds on the bench is kind of a big deal. Normally, lifters hit the magic number only at the state meet en route to a state title. Her friend and former teammate, Alex Ruiz, benched 180 pounds on the way to the 119-pound state title.

It may have been the first time a Pasco County girl hit the magic mark.

“It’s so exhilarating,’’ Valdes said of her feat.

Garcia knew why her star pupil was hitting this mark.

“She’s coachable,’’ Garcia said. “It’s all that hard work and dedication in the weight room.”

Valdes’ 130-pound clean and jerk gave her an impressive total of 330 pounds, but she’s already a veteran of state competition. She finished 10th in February at the FHSAA state finals in Kissimmee.

Valdes can also handle the heavy lifting in the classroom, which includes a 3.8 GPA, and she wants to attend Florida Gulf Coast University and eventually become a psychologist.

For now, though, she is putting in the hours at the gym.

“All of a sudden, my freshman year, once I started lifting, I saw that I was good at it,’’ Valdes said. “I was speechless. I was so happy. Coach Garcia works so hard. I try so hard. … I lift year around. I am so proud of myself.”

If she can keep it up, she may be lifting a gold medal in Kissimmee in February.

Valdes named outstanding lifter

Valdes hit 205 pounds on the bench press and 140 pounds in the clean and jerk and was named outstanding lifter in the 154-unlimited weight classes on Dec. 13 at the Disparti Weightlifting Invitational at River Ridge High. Charlotte won the team title with 52 points, while River Ridge was second with 29 points. Sunlake was fifth out of the 18 competing teams with 15 points.

Ruiz rolls into Gulf coaching job

2013 Sunlake graduate Alex Ruiz is now telling fellow teenagers how to pump iron. The former FHSAA state champion in the 119-pound class was named Gulf girls weightlifting coach and is, apparently, taken from the same mold as her coach at Sunlake: Denise Garcia.

Tiny lifter surprising at Hudson

Michaela Colson doesn’t look like a weightlifter.

But at only 4-foot-11, 96 pounds, the Hudson junior has some muscle and on Nov. 20, showed it with bench press and a clean and jerk of 95 pounds each.

She was in the 101-pound class.

Also a cheerleader and a gymnast, Colson qualified for states as a sophomore, but scratched out due to nerves.

“She surprised me,’’ Cobras coach David Broughton said. “She is stronger than she looks.”

Colson was surprised to make states, but, of course, wants to return to Kissimmee in February, this time bringing home a medal.

Colson wants to attend USF with her 3.5 GPA and eventually become a physician’s assistant. For now, Colson likes surprising people with her strength.

“I like it because people don’t expect it of you,’’ Colson said. “I love it. ... Coach Broughton constantly got on me about joining the team so I did. I was very surprised (to reach states).”

Correspondent Larry Bugg can be reached at larrybugg@msn.com.

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