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Bear thinks his way to championship

By CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2001


BELL -- Weightlifting has never been considered much of a thinking-man's sport, but Central 119-pounder Viet Lam did his best to dispel such stereotypes at Saturday's Class A state meet. Lam took home the only state title on the North Suncoast after sticking to a plan to go for weights he knew he could lift; unlike second-place Norman Hamner of Williston.

The Bears junior held the advantage after three successful lifts in the bench press and put the pressure on Hamner, who scratched on his final two attempts to match Lam's 230 pounds.

Hamner closed the gap a bit with an initial lift of 185 pounds in the clean-and-jerk but failed on his final two attempts -- 205 and 215 -- to close the 20-pound deficit. Lam's best lift in the clean-and-jerk was 180 pounds. "I'm pretty excited," Lam said. "I pulled through for coach (Mark Griffith). He really inspired me to win the state championship. He always pushes me and helps me a lot. I did this for him, my school and myself."

In all, though, it was a disappointing day for North Suncoast lifters, exemplified by Citrus' Jordan Darga, the defending 169-pound state champion.

"Everything was going great. I felt great. And I had it in my mind to win the state championship. And then I missed my first lift," Darga said. "I knew I missed an opportunity when I missed that first lift. I've never missed my first lift before."

Darga got the 325-pound lift he scratched on earlier but failed at 335, tying him with eventual champion Chindra Stephens of Williston entering the clean-and-jerk. Darga, who weighs a pound less than Stephens and would have lost on a tie, knew he had to put the pressure on Stephens. He lifted 265 pounds but scratched on attempts at 275 and 280. Stephens hoisted 275 on his second lift for a 10-pound win.

"The competition was just too good," Citrus coach Jonny Bishop said. "The Williston kid deserved it. Either he worked harder or he was smarter."

Zephyrhills' Josha Harrington and Pasco's Robert Beauvais were the next best among North Suncoast entries after third-place efforts, respectively, at 119 and 139. The only other North Suncoast lifter to place in the top six was Lecanto's Harold Skidmore, a two-time state wrestling runner-up who came up 35 pounds short of Dunnellon's T.J. Watts at 139.

Bartow won the team title with 20 points followed by Williston (17) and Vernon (16).

Coming Monday: The All-Suncoast Girls Basketball Team

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