Girls weightlifter of the year: IHS sophomore third at state
By Andy Hall
Kaleigh Tibbs says she’s always liked sports, but high school athletics were new to the Interlachen High School sophomore when she was coaxed into joining the girls weightlifting team.
Between her fondness for sports and the fact that her sister, Kristen, had lifted for the Rams, she wasn’t hard to convince. And it would be an understatement to suggest that Kaleigh Tibbs’ weightlifting debut was a smashing success.
Only the fifth girls weightlifter to qualify for the state meet in school history, Tibbs became the first to place. She set a personal record with a 155-pound bench press on her way to a 300-pound total lift that left her in third place in the 183-pound class in the state meet Feb. 10 in New Port Richey. For this achievement, she is honored as the Palatka Daily News Girls Weightlifter of the Year.
“I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did,” said Tibbs, who had a 145-pound clean and jerk to go with the 155-pound bench at state. “Probably the encouragement from coach (Wes) Lackey and staying after school and working out are what allowed me to do well.”
She wasn’t the only one who was surprised.
“We’ve never had a girl be that successful and we’d never had more than two go (to state in the same year) ever,” Lackey said. In 2007, the Rams qualified three — Lackey, Brittani Whitehurst (199-pound class) and Shevaun McCormick (129).
Tibbs’ success is a testament to work habits and natural ability.
“She didn’t lift last year, but this came naturally to her,” said Lackey, who assisted Jack Williams in both the boys and girls programs before taking over this season upon Williams’ retirement. “I asked her if she would come out — she had a sister that lifted for us — so she came out and worked hard.
“We’d come by every so often and say, ‘Hey, are you going to lift this year?’ and she said yes. And bam, there you go.”
Again, Tibbs, didn’t need a lot of convincing.
“I was going to play soccer this year and I got hurt (stress fracture in a leg). It healed in time to do weightlifting,” she said. “And my sister competed last year and she encouraged me. She said she had a lot of fun and it was a good way to meet people from other schools.”
She met — and defeated — all but two of the 23 competitors in her class at the state meet. Tibbs’ 300-pound total was matched by Adrienne Randel of Gulf Breeze at 300 pounds, but the tiebreaker favored Tibbs, who was six pounds lighter than the Panhandle competitor at weigh-in. Avon Park’s Anachelle Mejias ran away with first with a 380 total that included a state-record 215-pound bench.
Tibbs would like to replace Mejias atop the winner’s stand next year, but one thing she learned about her new sport this season is that natural strength is only part of the equation. The other part involves the proper stance, positioning of hands and other items that come under especially close scrutiny by state meet judges.
“I need to work on my technique, especially in the clean and jerk, because there’s more involved,” she said.
“Definitely,” Lackey said. “(Tibbs’ technique) is still not where it needs to be. But she’s a sophomore and she’s got time. The main thing is that she has the basic strength.”
“I’m thinking about soccer next year,” Tibbs said. “But if I do play, weightlifting will come first.”