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New coach lifts Pirates to new level

Charles Brooks watched and observed. What he saw troubled him.

Crystal River's female athletes, more often than not, lacked the muscle of their opponents.

"In my opinion, we weren't hitting the weights like we should," Brooks said.

Brooks, 37, saw an opportunity to change that. When the job as girls weightlifting coach opened, he jumped at the chance.

"I felt that I had something to add," Brooks said. "(Former coach) Sean Cassese came in and did a great job last year. And I thought I could add on to that."

Brooks, a 1985 Crystal River grad who played football at Valdosta State, is no lifting neophyte. He coached the boys squad last year.

"I've always been a lifter," he said. "I love it."

Entering Saturday's sectional meet in Marion County, the Pirates are unbeaten. Last week, they claimed their first county title, ending Citrus' streak of consecutive championships at seven. Crystal River was second in 2003 and a distant third in 2002.

"That was really awesome," junior Breanna Driver said.

Driver won the unlimited division. Three other Pirates won their divisions, Tiffani Machado (101), Racheal Reed (110) and Sara Dampman (169). Of the 20 Crystal River lifters who competed, 18 scored points.

The athletes are quick to credit Brooks.

"He's very inspirational," said senior Keri Boltin. "He motivates us to do our best. He's always trying to get you to motivate yourself and bring out the best in you. He's very positive. And he knows what he's doing."

Brooks said he focuses on creating a positive vibe.

He lifts with the squad. He stays late if needed.

Brooks didn't want the team to lose its edge during winter break, so he took time from his own vacation to open the weight room.

"Any type of problem you have, he's always been there to back us up 110 percent," Driver said. "If you're feeling down, he's there. He relates well with us. He played sports. He understands what it's like."

Brooks seems to enjoy the challenge.

Not to mention the success.

"I'm darn proud of them," he said.

_ Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 860-7337 or online at