- March 8, 2023
Pierson native Duane Hagstrom started coming to Flagler County as a teenager to visit his grandmother. She had one of the few houses in Palm Coast at the time, he said.
Now, Hagstrom is a fixture in Flagler County. And his Flagler Palm Coast High School weightlifting teams are perennial state contenders. His girls teams have won nine conference championships, four district titles and three regional titles.
Last season, his boys team won the won the first state weightlifting championship in school history.
On Nov. 30, Hagstrom achieved a milestone. By defeating New Smyrna Beach and Crescent City in a girls meet, the coach surpassed 700 victories for his career. All but 30 were earned at FPC. Hagstrom won three conference titles at Jacksonville Sandalwood before taking over the fledgling Bulldogs' program in 2002.
Duane Hagstrom's FPC girls weightlifting teams have won nine conference championships, four district titles and three regional titles. Last season, his boys team won the first state weightlifting championship in school history.
During his first five years, FPC had only a boys team. His first Bulldogs' squad went 0-13. Even as the team improved during his early years, wins were hard to come by. The Bulldogs competed in just three or four meets a year and the postseason in those years was dedicated to individual competition with no team scoring.
Hagstrom started racking up the wins when the girls program began in 2007 and when postseason meets began to include team competition. So winning the 11-team Five Star Conference championship means collecting 10 victories.
"It is a little deceiving," Hagstrom said. "It's not like baseball where you play one team at a time."
But winning conference and district championships in the Volusia-Flagler area — where the state's all-time greatest program resides — is not easy. Spruce Creek leads the the Florida record book with 27 boys state championships, 17 more than second-place Baker County. Of the 21 schools with two or more boys state titles, five are Volusia County schools, including Seabreeze with two titles.
Hagstrom has a 704-211-7 record. Of his victories, 416 have been with the girls teams and 288 with the boys. His girls teams have always had more depth, which is the reason they have been able to win so many conference, district and regional titles. Depth becomes less of a factor at state where the FPC boys essentially won the 2021-22 championship with two individual state champs and two runners-up, Hagstrom said.
Hagstrom has produced 16 individual state champs at FPC — 10 boys and six girls. But weightlifting is not one of the more popular sports at the school, and perhaps never will be. Athletes who concentrate on other sports have their own weight training. Weightlifting focuses only on the bench press, clean and jerk and, since last season, the Olympic snatch.
"You would think that after we won the state championship last season, hundreds of kids at our school would want to compete," Hagstrom said. "But they haven't been knocking down the doors."
The Bulldogs' girls team, which is 14-0 heading into the Five Star Conference championships, has 40 lifters in the program, while the boys have 25.
Most of the lifters do not compete in other sports. For some sports, the seasons conflict — winter sports for girls, spring sports for boys. Then there is the commitment. Weightlifting is a tough sport. Hagstrom's lifters train year-round.
Also, some high school weightlifting coaches teach weightlifting at their schools and are in the weightlifting room all day long. Hagstrom is an algebra teacher.
"Coach (Pete) Hald is the weightlifting teacher," Hagstrom said. "And he does a good job recruiting for me."
Hagstrom competed in Olympic-style weightlifting for over 10 years and won two national championships in the (over 35) masters division, and he prefers Olympic lifts. With the Olympic competition (snatch and clean and jerk) added to the traditional competition, FPC could be on its way to becoming the Spruce Creek of Olympic lifting.
"I gravitate to that a little more," he said. "It's mostly about technique."
With two competitions in each meet now, Hagstrom could end up collecting 1,000 wins before he's ready to retire.
Seabreeze senior Sam Gonzalez was the Ormond Beach Lions Club's Student Athlete of the Month for December. Gonzalez played wide receiver and quarterback for the football team.
He led the Sandcrabs in passing with 973 yards and also was their leading rusher with 496 yards. He also caught 13 passes for 119 yards, and he accounted for 19 touchdowns — eight passing, eight rushing and three receiving.
During the season, Gonzalez was honored as a Daytona Beach Quarterback Club Player of the Week and a MaxPreps Player of the Week twice. He has a 3.8 GPA and plans to play football in college next year.
Former Flagler Palm Coast track and field athlete Namiah Simpson has been named one 26 college finalists for the Coach Wooden Citizens Cup award presented by Athletes for a Better World. One male college athlete and one female college athlete will be selected for the award in the first week on January.
Simpson, a graduate student at Southeastern University, is a four-year captain for the track team and a 10-time NAIA All-American. She won a national indoor championship in the 4x400 relay. She is also a 12-time Sun Conference Champ and a two-time Academic All-American.
She won the top overall Senior Capstone Presentation in Southeastern's School of Nursing and was the first recipient of the Health and Public Policy Leadership Award, given to one nursing graduate. She is Southeastern's first female finalist for the Coach Wooden Citizens Cup award. Simpson graduated from FPC in 2018.
Former Seabreeze quarterback Blake Boda scored on a 5-yard run in overtime to lead Cocoa to a 38-31 win over Tallahassee Florida High in the Class 2S state football championship on Dec. 9. Boda had two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the game.
The Matanzas girls weightlifting team finished second with 53 points in a home meet on Dec. 7 to improve to 7-3 on the season. Tocoi Creek won with 65 points, while Atlantic collected 28 points and Crescent City had 19. Matanzas' Carina Tavares (119 pounds), Jordyn Crews (129), Maria Kelly (139) and Rilee Whitmore (169) won their weight classes. Kelly had the highest clean and jerk in the meet at 145 ponds. Whitmore had the third highest total lift at 290 pounds.
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