NEW PORT RICHEY - Two-time defending Sunshine Athletic Conference champion Crystal Bates, who was third at 139 pounds in last year's inaugural FHSAA girls state finals, took a step toward a state title Wednesday at River Ridge.
The Pasco lifter's combined total of 290 pounds tied Hudson's Devon Fodi, a defending conference champion at 199, for the meet high. Bates' bench press of 160 pounds was 10 pounds higher than the the closest competitor, and Fodi's clean and jerk of 155 was 25 pounds higher.
Bates and Fodi (13th last year at 199), who each dropped a weight class this year, joined girls from every Pasco County school in a Section 6 qualifying meet.
The results from this qualifying meet, combined with a similar meet held Wednesday at South Sumter, will be combined with a third meet two weeks from now at Nature Coast Tech in Brooksville. The top three overall totals advance to the FHSAA finals, to be held at Deland High on Feb. 12.
Since it is an open format section, all competitors, even the ones who scratched and/or did not attend Wednesday's meet, are eligible to participate Jan. 26.
Notable lifters from Wednesday's meet included Zephyrhills' LeAnn Carroll (101), a defending SAC champion who was ninth at state last year. Her total of 210 edged Ridgewood's Rachel Partlow (205).
Land O'Lakes' Andrea Hay (183), last year's conference champion at 169, finished second to Fodi at 183. Also, River Ridge's Jessica Baxter (154), SAC honorable mention last year and 25th at state, tied Zephyrhills' Rebekah Hayden with a total of 250, but lost the tiebreaker based on the weigh in.