Kennedi Blevins

Kennedi Blevins of Citrus competes in the bench press during a weightlifting meet last season. The Hurricane finished second in the state last winter and leads a strong squad into action this year.

A season ago, Citrus sent three girls to the Class 1A state weightlifting meet. The great news for the Hurricanes: All three of them are back this year.

Add in the fact that the biggest obstacle in district action it out of the way, and there’s plenty of room for optimism in the Citrus weight room.

"We switched the district this year. We also switched the region. So we’re not really having to go head to head against Nature Coast this year," Citrus head coach Chop Alexander said. "But I think we’ve got a pretty good chance to win the first district championship in school history.

"I’m hoping to win our first district championship, possibly first regional championship and send as many girls as I can to the state championship."

Alexander believes at least five of his girls have a legitimate opportunity to reach states, including last year’s qualifiers Kennedi Blevins, Rebecca Tatun and Victoria Giddens, as well as juniors Teah Mellon and Alahna Merricks.

The sophomore Tatun was 15th at 129 pounds with a 120-130—250 in last season’s state meet, while the senior Giddens was 18th at unlimited with a 175-155—330.

But it was Blevins who brought home some hardware, finishing as a state runner-up, producing a 330-pound total with 195 bench and 135 in clean-and-jerk.

Blevins finished behind only Emily Bennett of Arnold (190-170—360), an achievement made more amazing by the fact she was coming off ACL surgery and wasn’t cleared to put weight on that leg until states. So expectations are high for a healthier junior year, though she’ll have to overtake Bennett, who is a senior.

"She’s going to have work at it, because that girl that won it last year (Bennett), she’s still going to keep that same weight class," Alexander said. "She’s been working hard. She’s just got to keep working."

Citrus, Crystal River and Lecanto are all in District 1A-8, along with Belleview, Cedar Key, Dunnellon, Lake Weir, North Marion and Vanguard.

Both the Pirates and Panthers are in a building mode, though they are in very different places in terms of numbers.

Lecanto has 32 girls on its roster, but only five have ever lifted competitively. Sophomore Alli Wilson was a state qualifier last season, taking 11th at 129 (125-130—255).

A collection of juniors join Wilson as returnees: Angelica Agnew, Kimberly Flores, Alexis Sant, Bella Scheiferstein and Jewelista Torres.

"We are extremely young," Lecanto head coach Bob LeCours said. "We’ve got about eight weeks left and we hope to make it a pleasant experience so kids come back next year and improve.

"We’re not used to this. We’ve always been solid and this year is truly a rebuilding year. The focus is on training and getting better every day more than on beating people.

"We’ll be competitive. I have no doubts in the leadership we have and the effort we get. We’ll fill out all the weight classes and be competitive, and that’s all I can hope."

Conversely, Crystal River had just nine girls available at Wednesday’s season-opening meet against Citrus. Head coach Randy Owens figures to have 13-14 lifters once everyone is cleared to compete.

Senior Alyssa Colasurd and junior Chasity Martin are the two returnees the Pirates will lean on most.

"All my girls are working hard," Owens said. "A lot of them are new to the sport so they’re just learning technique, proper protocol, how we do things at a meet and stuff like that. It’s all new to a lot of them.

"I’m hoping by the time county (meet) and districts come around that we can compete; the girls that I have, even though we’re a small team, we can compete and be competitive with the other teams in our district."

Citrus Hurricanes

Coach: Chop Alexander

Key returners: Kennedi Blevins (Jr.), Victoria Giddens (Sr.), Teah Mellon (Jr.), Alahna Merricks (Jr.), Rebecca Tatun (So.)

Key losses: Nicole Ervin, Amanda Schnettler, Lillian Shaw

Key newcomers: Michala Billings (Fr.), Jaden Buschena (Fr.), Jessica Jones (Sr.)

Crystal River Pirates

Coach: Randy Owens

Key losses: Bailey Bennis

Key returners: Alyssa Colasurd (Sr.), Chasity Martin (Jr.)

Key newcomers: none

Lecanto Panthers

Coach: Bob LeCours

Key returners: Angelica Agnew (Jr.), Kimberly Flores (Jr.), Alexis Sant (Jr.), Bella Scheiferstein (Jr.), Jewelista Torres (Jr.), Alli Wilson (So.)

Key losses: Essence Cokely, Taylor Kempton, Aysha Martin, Makiya Seminera

Key newcomers: Torin Cable (Sr.), Angli Devin (Jr.), Makayla Hogan (Jr.), Courtney Plante (Sr.)

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Contact Chronicle sports reporter Chris Bernhardt at 352-563-5660, or on twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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