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Disappointing end to a stellar career

State tournament was not indicative of Crystal Bates' athletic prowess.

Published May 22, 2005

DADE CITY - It was 7 a.m. on a February morning at the state weightlifting tournament in Deland, and Pasco's Crystal Bates was ready to go. But she would find out quickly she was in for a long day.

Bates, who finished third in the state in 2004, felt strong. It was just matter of putting up the weight.

"It was first (place) or nothing," Bates said. "I was done with second and third."

Last season, she didn't have to wait long, which was good because her nerves would only hold for so long.

Then she and her coach saw the day's schedule: The order of weight classes was reversed from the previous year.

For Bates, competing at 139 pounds, the waiting game had just begun.

Lunchtime came and went. It was around 3p.m. when she finally got a chance for her first attempt on the bench press, eight hours after the morning weighin.

On her first attempt at 165 pounds, a weight Bates had put up many times before, she brought the bar down to her chest.

It wouldn't budge.

"I was just worn out sitting there waiting," Bates said. After another failed attempt, Bates packed her stuff and went home even though she had another lift.

"I thought I was going to go for about 180 (pounds). All day I was just sitting around in a gym watching all the other girls lift weights. It was ridiculous."

If she can get the state tournament out of her mind, the Times All-Pasco Girls Weightlifter of the Year has plenty to be proud of - beginning with three conference championships.

In four years of high school competition, she lost only one county match, at the conference championships her freshman year.

"It's just not that she won every meet," Pasco coach Ramiro Tejada said. "She dominated. Nobody could touch her. From the get-go, she was basically prepping for state."

Tejada said Bates' success will help him recruit more girls to the team, which numbered about 10 this season

"It helps," Tejada said. "Especially when they see her winning all these awards and showing up in the paper."

How does a teenage girl get into lifting large weights above her head?

Bates said she basically had no choice. The first of her influences was growing up with five older brothers, two of which lifted weights for Pasco.

When they were younger, it wasn't even so much that she and her brothers, who range in age from 21-38, had organized workouts.

"It was more like, "I can lift the bar one more time than you can,"' Bates said.

It was more than just her brothers though. While other girls were playing with dolls, she was outside roughing around with the boys.

"I played football with all the boys," Bates said. "It was more than just one boy. It was definitely the whole neighborhood."

Now that her high school career is finished, Bates doesn't see herself in the gym for hours everyday anymore.

"It's about keeping in shape now," she said. "It's not about competing.

Bates, who graduated magna cum laude (3.8-4.1 GPA), wants to be a dental hygienist.

She will attend Pasco-Hernando Community College in the fall.

[Last modified May 22, 2005, 01:07:21]

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