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By WAYNE GRUMET
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2001
BUSHNELL -- Central coach Sharon Elliott anxiously watched her team file in for Wednesday's weigh-in.
Throughout the season, Elliott had been forced to compete without three or four lifters. She was hoping Wednesday's Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championships would be different.
And indeed, Elliott had all of her girls accounted for, and Central finally beat South Sumter 62-53 for the conference title. The schools shared the conference crown last year, and South Sumter beat the Bears 68-53 in a dual meet last week.
"I didn't think we had this much depth until today. We've never had everyone here," Elliott said. "After (the loss to South Sumter), I think our team really woke up. I had 20 girls at practice on a day off the next Monday."
Central won the title by winning four of the 10 classes. Elena Morales (110), Alaya Smiley (139), Heather Krazniewski (183) and Amy Royce (unlimited) paced the Bears with wins.
Smiley was the most impressive performer. The 133-pound track star posted the day's largest total at 320 pounds.
Smiley was so far ahead of her class that her starting weights in the bench and clean-and-jerk were more than any of her competitors' best lifts. Starting high, though, had its drawbacks. Smiley had to wait about two hours before lifting.
When Smiley finally did step up in the clean-and-jerk, she was the meet's final lifter, and all eyes were on her.
"Usually, I'm nervous, so I'll listen to music to calm me down," Smiley said. "(The crowd) actually kind of boosts me up, but I hate being last. I'm always pumped when I get here."
South Sumter edged Citrus for second place by five points. The Hurricanes had three individuals champions, but it wasn't enough to overcome South Sumter's depth.
Citrus picked up big points when Julie Shott (101), Melissa Thomas (119) and Jessica Baum (154) won their classes.