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First-year team pulls its weight

(ran PAS edition)

Cheerleader Jill Pruden, diver Melissa LaVigne and soccer player Laura Gonzalez were winners Monday outside their fields of expertise.

Each of those juniors won division titles and helped Land O'Lakes High place third in the inaugural Pasco County girls weightlifting meet at River Ridge. County champion Ridgewood had five division winners and was the only school to have more division winners than the Gators.

Pruden, LaVigne and Gonzalez were among seven girls who came out for the first-year team. Ridgewood, which went unbeaten at 7-0, River Ridge, Pasco and Hudson also had girls weightlifting teams.

"I like it. It's a lot of fun," said Pruden, whose source of strength before lifting weights came from her previous training in gymnastics. "I feel like I'm in better shape than before."

Competing in the 140-pound weight class, Pruden totaled 230 pounds. She bench-pressed 110 pounds and lifted 120 in the clean-and-jerk.

In the 125-pound class, LaVigne had a 90-pound bench-press and a 105 in the clean-and-jerk.

Gonzalez, who said she came out for weightlifting, because "I just like looking buff," hoisted 80 pounds in each event in the 95-pound category.

Coach Vicky King expressed more satisfaction with the girls' improvement from the beginning of the season rather than the first-place finishes.

"Everybody improved and learned about the sport," King said. "They lifted a lot more than they thought they could. They got stronger and stronger during the year."

Pruden says running on the 400-meter relay team in track and competing in the high jump, coupled with her weight training, also made her stronger.

"I feel good about myself that I can lift a lot more," said Pruden, who started off the season lifting 90 pounds in the clean-and-jerk. "I don't really compete against others. I just try to get my maximum (lift)."

Although they did not win in the county meet, sophomore Mandy Stephens, freshman Katie Helfrich, senior Melanie Taylor and freshman Erika Miller also were able to lift more weight at the end of the season than they could at the beginning.

"Every time they lifted more it was like a new level that they had reached," King said.

Clint Newman found another level himself, becoming the only member of the Land O'Lakes boys team to compete in this year's state meet. The 5-foot-7 weightlifter finished 10th in the 139-pound category in the state meet April 25 at Spruce Creek, south of Daytona.

Newman won his division in the Sunshine Athletic Conference meet this year by bench-pressing 280 pounds and lifting 195 in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 475 pounds.

Newman, who also throws the discus for the Gators track and field team, is carrying on a family tradition. His father, Dan, was a weightlifter, discus thrower and shot putter at Leto High in Hillsborough County in the mid-1970s.

"He teaches me a lot," Clint Newman said of his father. "He's the one who's basically trained me since I was in middle school."

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