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Citrus, with deeper muscles, favored in meet

Question of the day: Will today's winner at the Citrus County Weightlifting Championships be just that, the county champ, or will the win transcend the sport and mean something more?

Is the winning school at today's meet, in some way, stronger than the rest? Or better conditioned? Or just plain better than the others?

"Not really," answered Steve Sherland, coach of defending champion Citrus. "I don't think it transcends anything. Maybe for the football players. We have a lot of football players, and maybe it gives them a chance to get even a bit."

For the Hurricanes, who lost to both Crystal River and Lecanto on the gridiron this season, the County Championships offer a prime chance for a bit of redemption. With the county's deepest squad, they are the odds-on favorites in today's action at Lecanto.

The story is different for Crystal River's Anthony Cooks and Clayton Boyette. Key players in the Pirates' storybook football season, today offers both a chance to thump their chests one more time before graduation ends their high school careers. Both were state qualifiers last year and both, it seems, are the class of the county's weightlifters this year.

"He's got some good weightlifters," Sherland said of Earl Bramlett's Pirates. "They've got eight state qualifiers, and they might get 10 by the end of the season. With that, I'd say they are one of the best teams in Class 4A."

The Hurricanes, though, have something the Pirates and Panthers don't _ depth. Yes, Crystal River probably does have the county's best overall lifters, but Citrus, with its county-high 29-man squad, has the most. And this was the difference when the two met this season in a 53-29 Hurricanes win.

"We've got more kids and our kids are good and getting better," Sherland said. "We've got a bunch of better-than-average guys and that's what helps us."

Both Bramlett and Sherland, though, must be cautious. For the Pirates, there are two keys. The first is to not over-extend themselves, and secondly, they must get solid efforts from their bottom five lifters.

Today's meet will be run according to state championship rules, with each team allowed 15 lifters in the 10 weight classes. This could limit the Hurricanes' depth advantage _ forcing Sherland to be more selective about where he puts his other lifters _ and also puts a premium on good lifts from those other five lifters.

"Citrus has some good lifters, but what concerns me is their depth," Bramlett said. "We might pick up second place, but if they get a first and fourth, they're three points ahead. For us, our top 10 lifters have to make their lifts, and the second five have got to score some points for us."

Points are awarded to the top four finishers (five for first, three for second, two for third and one for fourth), which is why the Hurricanes, with their depth, are still the team to beat. It also explains why Lecanto, which is a clear underdog going in, could play the role of spoiler.

Sherland, though, while convinced Lecanto will play a role, wasn't about to shoulder the role of favorite. In his opinion, the Pirates' talent still makes them the favorites.

"On paper, I'd say that Crystal River is the favorite," Sherland said. "It will probably be between us and Crystal River with Lecanto playing a big part. It depends on who (Lecanto) hurts more, us or them. That should be the determining factor."

CITRUS COUNTY

WEIGHTLIFTING

CHAMPIONSHIPS

WHEN: 3 p.m. today.

WHERE: Lecanto High School Gymnasium.

WHO: Lecanto, Crystal River and Citrus.

LIFTERS TO WATCH: Citrus _ Timmy White (154 pounds), Nick Morris (129); Crystal River _ Phuong Chau (119), Charles Gober (129), Anthony Cooks (139), Tim Ditty (169), Ricky Posselt (183), Clayton Boyette (199), Jason Massey (219), Sam Houston (heavyweight); Lecanto _ Jeff Hoki (129), Travis Tatman (139), Brian Furniss (199), Greg Meade (129), Ryan Pelky (183) and Jason Mohammad.

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