A year ago, when Kennedi Blevins finished as a runner-up at the girls weightlifting state meet, she made her goals for the future quite clear.
“Training starts tomorrow,” she said that day, “to try to win states next year.”
On Friday at the Class 1A FHSAA State Championships at Arnold High in Panama City Beach, that dream became a reality. The Citrus High junior won the 139-pound weight class, becoming the first female lifter to capture a state championship in county history.
“I’m excited, I set the goal of winning states at the beginning of this season so it feels good to accomplish it,” Blevins said. “I didn’t hit the numbers I wanted to, so I definitely could’ve done better, but I’m happy I was still able to secure that first-place spot.
“I’m happy about that, but it’s really not about winning. It has been a journey to get to this point but I’m glad I’m part of such a great team that has been supportive of it all.”
The top seed coming into the meet, Blevins took first in fairly convincing fashion. She benched 200 pounds, 30 more than anyone else in the class, and her clean-and-jerk of 165 tied two other girls for the highest. That gave her a 365 total that was 30 pounds heavier than second-place Tyra Kalandyk of Suwannee (170-165—335).
“I finally hit 200 pounds on bench, but my clean-and-jerk was about 15 pounds less than my max so I was hoping for more on that,” Blevins said.
Nevertheless, it was plenty good enough to improve on last year’s results, which was no easy feat. She posted a 195-135—330, all personal bests at that time, in the 2019 state meet. That was the only meet her entire sophomore season where she was medically cleared to use both legs following knee surgery to repair her ACL.
She had no such limitations this season, and it showed in the final outcome.
“Getting second last year definitely inspired me to work harder this season,” Blevins said.
Also for Citrus at 139, sophomore Rebecca Tatun collected her first state medal in her second state meet. She was fifth with a 140-160—300. The top six at each weight earned medals. She improved from 15th (120-130—250) at 129 last year.
Senior Victoria Giddens was also making a second straight appearance at states and garnered her first medal, placing fifth at unlimited with a 195-175—370. Last year she was 18th with a 175-155—330.
First-time state qualifiers for the Hurricanes were Grace Pierson, who was 13th at 183 (155-150—305), and Raven Langley, who came in 18th at 169 (150-120—270). Citrus totaled 11 team points to tie for seventh.
“Of course we are proud of Kennedi. She has determination like we have never seen before,” Citrus head coach Linnet Calise said. “She was able to achieve second place at states last year with an ACL injury and she came in set to win states this year and she did.
“Today she hit a PR (personal record) on bench of 200 pounds and she has had that in her sights for a while, but Kennedi, like all the girls on our team, had one focus this season. We wanted to do things as a team that no one at Citrus had done before and we did that. It took every single girl being committed and giving 100% to be able to be county champs, district champs, regional runners-up and bring five girls to state.”
Lecanto’s Alli Wilson made her second trip to states and the sophomore just missed on the hardware. She was seventh at 129 with a 145-145—290, five pounds away from sixth. That’s up from 11th as a freshman with a 125-130—255 at 129.
“She’s disappointed, but progress is progress,” Lecanto head coach Bob LeCours said. “State weightlifting for girls has become ultra-competitive. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’d have liked to take home a medal, but she was close.
“There’s no doubt she knows what it takes now. Last year she was in awe for getting there as a freshman. Now she knows she can compete without a doubt at the upper level. I think her best years are ahead of her.”