- April 6, 2022
Flagler Palm Coast won the boys state weightlifting championship. Several Flagler County athletes won individual titles. These are some of the top sports stories for 2022.
LIFTING THE TROPHY
All season, Flagler Palm Coast's weightlifting coaches made sure not to mention the words "state championship" to their boys' lifters.
That is, not until after the state meet when the Bulldogs were hoisting the Class 3A championship trophy on April 21. FPC's boys weightlifters did not win a conference, district or region championship last season, but they won their first state title in school history, defeating runner-up Niceville, 24-21.
FPC also finished third in the new snatch lift competition. Dom Bennett won two individual titles in the 139-pound class — the traditional and the snatch title. Rigens Andre clinched FPC's team championship with his 219-pound title, tying the school's clean-and-jerk record for his weight class with a 305-pound lift.
Nick Lilavois (119 pounds) and Isaiah Rivers (154 pounds) were runners-up. Lilavois also joined Bennett in winning the snatch title in his weight class.
Lilavois had a collision when he ran down from the balcony after the Bulldogs clinched the title.
“I ran into a dude at full speed,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ Then I ran to the court to celebrate with my team.”
THREE MORE STATE CHAMPS
The FPC boys lifters weren't the only state champs to represent Flagler County in 2022. Three other high school athletes won individual titles:
Buchanan also placed at state as a freshman and a sophomore. She dedicated her 2022 season to her mother, who died in September, 2021. Buchanan's mother always supported Annie and her three siblings, who were all lifters for FPC coach Duane Hagstrom.
“This means more to me this year, because I did it for my mom,” she said.
While her father, Matanzas girls coach Mike Fries, won two state championships and was also a runner-up twice in the 1990s at FPC, Tiana now has her own place in Flagler County wrestling lore as the first girls state champ in county history.
After shooting 3-under 68 on day 1, Gazzoli recovered from a triple bogey on day 2 to win with a par on her final hole. "Alexandra is one of the most competitive people I know," Matanzas coach Brandie Alred said.
There were many more memorable moments in 2022:
The Mills family took home three wrestling medals at state. Tyson and Jordan Mills each finished second at the Class 2A boys meet. Tyson, a senior, was the runner-up at 152 pounds, while Jordan, a junior, was the 170-pound runner-up. Freshman Mariah Mills took home the third-place medal in the 105-pound weight class at the girls championships.
FPC's Jada Williams won a state medal in track and field (fifth place in the 800 meters) to add to her state medal in cross country (sixth place). The 800 was never Williams' specialty, but she started the season late because of a leg injury and didn't have the endurance to perform at her best in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. She wound up running the second-fastest 800 time in school history at 2:17.07.
FPC's football team won a district championship for the fourth time in school history when it defeated Nease 42-28 on Oct. 14. Rodney Hill clinched the win with a 97-yard pick-six with 1:16 left in the game. The Bulldogs later had to forfeit four games (which included three wins) after self-reporting an ineligible player early in the season. But the forfeits did not affect their district title. They lost to top seed Bartram Trail in a first-round playoff game.
Matanzas senior Emma Wood finished her stellar high school softball career with an astronomical .647 batting average last spring. She was also a 6-4 record with a 2.41 earned run average in the pitching circle. She led off her final game, a regional playoff against Jacksonville Paxon, with a triple to the center field wall. She never got another chance to hit as Paxon intentionally walked her in her next three times at bat.
Matanzas' boys bowling team won its first district title in school history. "It's absolutely amazing," senior Morgan Naydich said. "I can't even put words to describe it." At the state meet, the Pirates finished fourth in qualifying to advance to the round of 16.
Weightlifting coach Duane Hagstrom achieved his 700th victory on Nov. 30. All but 30 of the wins have come at FPC, where he has been coaching for 21 years.