For the fourth time in program history and second time in the past three years, the Heard County High School weightlifting team hoisted the GACA Class AA state weightlifting title on Saturday in Louisville.
Competing at Jefferson County High School, the Braves had a school-record 17 lifters score team points by registering top-six finishes in their respective weight class en route to a team tally of 88 points, well ahead of the host and second-place Warriors (61) and third-place Washington County (56 points).
Heard County also won Class AA state crown in 2013, 2014 and 2016 to go along with runner-up efforts in 2015 and 2017.
Heard County strength and conditioning coach Kyle Yates said it was a matter of a number of guys having personal-best performances Saturday to bring home another team title.
"Going in, we were a little nervous. We didn't really know what we were going to have. But a lot of kids hit their personal-record on Saturday, which is awesome and it helped us win the meet," Yates said. "We power cleaned well and benched well and all that, but you've got to have a bunch of kids place in the top-six and we had the most do that we've ever had. We only had two kids win it, which was Luis Vasquez and David Wilkins, but what helped us win as a team was all those kids placing in the top-six."
Vasquez, a senior, captured the individual state title in the 206-225 weight class for his second straight championship, lifting a combined weight of 665 pounds between the power clean and bench press.
Wilkins, a junior, won the 151-160 division with a combined weight of 525 to earn his first-ever medal at state.
Runner-up efforts were recorded by Kevin Hendrix, Komari Clark, Andrew Leak, Carlton Williams and Jacob Stephens, highlighted by an impressive showing from Stephens in the 246-and-over division with a 425-pound bench press, which fell just short of the state title.
Rounding out the top-six placers for Heard County were Brenden Thompson in third, Jaden Moreland, Michael Cheney, Jakab Moon and Jonny Laster in fourth, Jaidan Cameron in fifth and Matt Nilsen, Duncan Googe, Aaron Beasley and Sam Brown in sixth.
Yates said what ultimately stood out about the group is how it's guys from all walks of life and not just a bunch of football players.
"That's the awesome thing about Heard County. It's not just football players that's lifting. It's people from the band, it's people that's just in a club that love to lift weights," Yates said. "We've got athletes, obviously, who are lifting. But that's just the awesome thing. It's a well-rounded program. All the kids love to lift and that helps the culture of the whole school."
That culture and pride in weightlifting and weight training is something Yates said isn't just for male athletes or males in general, as the girls hit the weights with the same intensity as the guys do during the week.
"That's the biggest thing is having pride in what you're doing. They love to come in every day and lift. There's never a day where they come in and say, 'Well, coach, I'm not really feeling it today. I think I'm going to take a break or take a day off.' It's awesome," Yates said. "We're going to a girls' meet here in a few weeks. So we'll take some girls to lift for the deep squat, deadlift. It's not only the guys in there. The girls, they work just as hard, if not harder, than the guys. That's a special thing. We've got four blocks of weight training and we've got 70 kids per block. So everybody's clamoring to get in there. It's just an awesome atmosphere to lift in where everybody continues to grow and build on that."