Sophomore Kelly Butler may not look strong. At 5-foot-2 and 113 pounds, her thin frame is deceiving.
But the gymnast, pole vaulter and volleyball player turned to weightlifting last year to help prepare for the Panthers' track season. After lifting for a few months, Butler got a surprise while looking in the mirror and brushing her hair.
"I was like, "What are those?' " said Butler, pointing to her triceps. "I went running to my mom and showed her my muscles. I couldn't believe it."
Butler continued to impress. Her strength surprised many, earning Butler the nickname "muscles" this year from freshman linebacker Dustin Young.
"Yeah, I was surprised how much she could lift," Young said. "She was deep in a jerk, and I couldn't believe how much she put over her head."
So Butler affectionately returned the favor by calling her fellow athlete dimples for his trademark facial indentations.
"If you just look at me, you wouldn't think I'd be a weightlifter," Butler said. "But it's cool to bench like the guys."
Lecanto coach Bob LeCours calls Butler one of the leaders on his young squad, which competes in the Citrus County Activities Association Championship today. Eleven of the 24 lifters are freshmen.
"She'll push you and won't stop until you've done your best," freshman Vianca McDonald said. "She really inspires me. I want to be like her when I'm a sophomore."
After competing just once last season, not for points, Butler has placed first twice this year _ once against Crystal River _ and third in a meet that included Citrus.
Butler, who started in the 119 weight class, dropped to 110 halfway through the season after making muscle gains while shedding some weight. She isn't sure how much she has improved since last season, maybe by as much as 20 pounds on her lifts. She now benches 100 pounds and clean-and-jerks 90.
"I'm nervous," Butler said about today's event. "I'm sure there are girls in the weight class who have more experience than me. But it's about finding your limits and pushing them. It's important to push, because that's only how you get better."