The Lecanto girls weightlifters left the Weeki Wachee gym on Wednesday afternoon having garnered a share of a conference championship. They just didn’t know it.

In a bizarre tale befitting of life in 2020 — even if it isn’t actually 2020 anymore — the Panthers probably, eventually celebrated tying for first place in the Gulf Coast 8 conference meet. Lecanto and Nature Coast both scored 41 points to split the conference crown.

When Lecanto’s contingent loaded on to the bus and departed for a return trip to Citrus County, coach Wyndell “Chop” Alexander said no one was aware the Panthers were in the running to take top team honors and even a few hours later the girls had no idea.

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It was another wacky turn in a wild day that led Alexander, the head football coach who actually helms the boys weightlifting squad, to be there in the first place.

Up until Monday, Greg Harper had been the head coach for the girls team. That was his last official day at Lecanto; he has just been hired to be the new head football coach at Williston. His wife, Karen Harper, has replaced him for the remainder of the weightlifting season.

But neither Harper could make it to the conference meet after being placed in a COVID-19 quarantine. So on Wednesday morning, Alexander was asked to fill in.

“We all work in the same weight room,” Alexander said. “I just met some of them today. … I gave them a little pep talk and coached them through it.

“Coach (Greg) Harper trained them. All the credit goes to him.”

Reached at his home, Harper had only received a few details but was happy to hear of the outcome.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Harper said. “It’s a credit to the girls and how hard they’ve worked this season. I’m excited for them.

“I appreciate (Alexander) being there when my wife and I couldn’t be there, and stepping in. That’s really awesome of him.”

Two-time state qualifier Alli Wilson notched a first-place finish for the Panthers at 129 pounds. The junior benched 150 pounds and hoisted 160 in the clean-and-jerk for a 310 total.

Jewelista Torres also came in first, at 199 pounds, with a 140 bench and 135 clean for a 275 overall. Isabella Schieferstein (115-120—235 at 169) and Essence Cokely (165-140—305 at unlimited) both earned second-place points for Lecanto.

Citrus came in fourth with a 35 team score and had the only other individual champion from the county. That was junior Rebecca Tatun, a state medalist last year, who far out-lifted the competition at 154 in this meet with a 150-180—330. That was 75 pounds higher than the second-place lifter and was the second-highest total for all classes.

“We are very proud of all of our girls,” said Citrus coach Linnet Calise, noting that all 10 who lifted for the Hurricanes scored. “Lots of our girls had PRs today and we have several first-year girls who have improved meet after meet and came in and scored points for our team today.”

Crystal River had four team points. Kasey Strom placed highest for the Pirates, taking fifth at 169 (95-105—200).

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

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