Mainland's Walker crushes competition to win state weightlifting championship

The Bucs' senior benched 440 pounds for a 755-pound total to win the Class 2A unlimited weight class by 25 pounds.

Mainland's Elijah Walker won the Class 2A state weightlifting  championship in the unlimited weight class with a school-record 755-pound total. Courtesy photo
Mainland's Elijah Walker won the Class 2A state weightlifting championship in the unlimited weight class with a school-record 755-pound total. Courtesy photo
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Mainland High’s Elijah Walker knew he was going to win a state weightlifting championship on April 20. So did his coach. So did his family. But that didn’t stop the tears from flowing when the medal was draped around his neck.

“My family was not shocked because they knew I was going to win. I’ve been saying that since last year before I hurt my knee,” Walker said. “But my mom was crying because she knew what I went through.”

The 342-pound Walker lifted a total of 755 pounds in the traditional competition in the Class 2A unlimited weight class. He won the title by 25 pounds, putting an exclamation point on his day at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland with a personal-record 440-pound bench press. He broke school records in both the bench and total lift.

Elijah Walker gets ready to bench press. The Mainland senior benched a school-record 440 pounds at the state championships. Courtesy photo

He did not miss a lift all day. Walker clinched the title after his second bench press of 420 pounds. With nothing to lose, he had 20 more pounds added to the bar.

“His previous best was 425,” Mainland coach Chris Fricke said. “He already had first place locked up at that point, so why not try 440? He just smashed it out. He probably could have gone higher if he needed to.”

Walker was still not where he was in the clean and jerk last season before he underwent knee surgery on June 6. But while he was limited on that lift, he built up his bench press. A year ago, he clean and jerked 365 pounds. When he resumed that lift after his surgery he struggled with 135 pounds.

At state, he clean and jerked 300, then 310, then 315, which was good enough for fourth place heading into the bench press. But he knew none of the top challengers were going to come close to him on the bench.

“As soon as I clean and jerked 315, I knew what I had to do, and I just blew it out of the water,” Walker said.

When he locked up the title he looked up in the stands to his parents.

“He started getting giddy,” Fricke said. “He was hopping around. You could see the smile on his face.”

Walker, an offensive lineman who will play football for Alabama State next year, transferred back to Mainland from Spruce Creek before his junior football season. At that point, he knew he would only have one chance to win a state weightlifting title because Mainland was just starting up the program again and was not eligible to compete in the postseason.

Then in Mainland’s intrasquad spring football scrimmage in May, he tore his his MCL and meniscus. He missed the first three games of the football season, but he was back in plenty of time to help the Bucs win a state championship.

At the state weightlifting meet, Walker became the second Mainland athlete to win two state championships in the same school year.

On Monday, April 22, the school celebrated Walker’s championship.

“Between third and fourth period in the big courtyard we have, they set up a podium, and I got up on it. It was pretty cool,” he said.

But now that weightlifting is over, Walker already has football on his mind.

“I leave for Alabama State in a month,” he said. “Right as we graduate high school I’m leaving, and I’m ready to go to my new home.”


A year after winning the Class 2A traditional title, Matanzas lifter Cole Hash placed fifth in both the traditional and Olympic competitions in the 199-pound weight class.

Hash became the Pirates’ first lifter to win a medal in the Olympic category. He totaled 520 pounds in Olympic competition and 635 pounds in the traditional competition with a 290-pound clean and jerk and a 345-pound bench press.

Matanzas 129-pound lifter, Jayden Sao, also won a fifth-place medal with a 425-pound total in the traditional competition.

“We thought Jayden could medal (top six) if things went right, and he had a really good day,” Pirates coach Matt Forrest said.

Hash finished his weightlifting career with a total of four medals. He also placed third in the 183-pound class as a sophomore.

“Once you get to that strength level it’s tough,” Forrest said. “At end of the day I know he was disappointed, but no one can take that state championship away that he won last year. He’s been a star for us. He’s got a lot to be proud of.”

Flagler Palm Coast’s Nick Groth finished his weightlifting career with five medals. Groth placed third in both the traditional and Olympic categories in the 169-pound class at the Class 3A championships on April 19.

Groth lifted a 585-pound traditional total and a 540-pound Olympic total. He placed fifth in Olympic and sixth in traditional last year and placed third in the snatch lift in his sophomore year when the Bulldogs won the Class 3A state championship.


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