Flagler Palm Coast, Seabreeze and Matanzas girls weightlifters head to state with eyes on the podium

FPC's Gotera, Williams and Long, Seabreeze's James and Matanzas' Whitmore expect to be in the medal hunt.

FPC's Chloe Long, Zoey Gotera and Nya Williams qualified for both the Olympic and traditional competitions in the Class 3A state girls weightlifting championships. Photo by Brent Woronoff
FPC's Chloe Long, Zoey Gotera and Nya Williams qualified for both the Olympic and traditional competitions in the Class 3A state girls weightlifting championships. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Photo by Brent Woronoff
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Flagler Palm Coast senior Zoey Gotera wants to have a little bling to go along with her cap and gown at this year's high school graduation. Specifically, she wants to wear a state weightlifting medal.

Gotera is one of five Bulldogs who qualified for the Class 3A state girls weightlifting championships on Feb. 16 in Lakeland. She qualified in both traditional and Olympic competitions in the unlimited weight class. Senior Chloe Long and freshman Nya Williams also qualified in both competitions for the Bulldogs.

FPC allows state medalists to wear their medals at graduation. The top six in each competition receive a medal. Last year, Gotera finished 10th at state in the Olympic competition. At the Region 1-3A championships on Feb. 1 at the Bulldogs’ gym, Gotera placed third in Olympic and eighth in traditional. Her Olympic total of 320 pounds is the fifth top total among state qualifiers, and it’s not even her best. Her district meet total was 330 pounds.

“I’m a little injured, so I had to lower my weights,” she said after the regional meet. “I rolled my ankle on Sunday (Jan. 28). I was playing volleyball at a (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meeting. I didn’t want to be the only one left out, so I played.”

At district, Gotera lifted 140 pounds in the snatch lift and 190 in the clean and jerk. She settled for 135 and 185 at the regional to ease the strain on her ankle.

“I have two weeks (before state), so my ankle should be good by then,” she said.

Long placed fifth in both competitions in the 183-pound class with a 295-pound total in Olympic and 295 pounds in traditional (clean and jerk and bench press). The senior will compete at state for the second time after qualifying as a sophomore. She said she’s added 25 pounds to both of her totals this year.

The state meet is a welcome addition to an already busy February for Long. Her month also includes several major band events, the Leaders 4 Life Fellowship conference and the beginning of lacrosse season.

Williams began lifting in June. Now, she's in the mix for two state medals. At regional, she was the runner-up in the 110-pound class in the Olympic competition with a 255 total and was fifth in traditional, also with a 255 total. She is seeded third in Olympic and seventh in traditional at state.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity I have,” she said. “Initially, I had my ups and downs, but I had fun doing it, so I continued. Now I’m going against state champs, so it feels good.”

FPC coach Duane Hagstrom said Williams, Gotera and Long all have a chance to reach the podium and take home a state medal.

“I think everybody would agree this is the toughest region for 3A,” Hagstrom said. “There are some strong, strong girls in this region.”

FPC’s Madeline Brinker (101 pounds) and Shey Paul (154) also qualified in Olympic competition based on their regional totals. Brinker placed eighth at region in both competitions. Paul finished ninth in Olympic.

“I only have two seniors and a couple of juniors, and for a  a lot of (FPC’s regional qualifiers) this was their first experience in something of this magnitude,” Hagstrom said. “So overall I’m happy. We're very, very young.”


Matanzas qualified two lifters while Seabreeze qualified one for the Class 2A championships Feb.17 in Lakeland.

Seabreeze’s Sofia James qualified in both competitions in the 169-pound class. James placed second to New Smyrna Beach’s Mepeola Tofade in tradtional with a 355-pound total and third in Olympic with a 310-pound total at the Region 2-2A meet Feb. 3 in Leesburg.

Matanzas’ Rilee Whitmore placed third at 169 pounds in traditional with a 350-pound total. She will join James and Tofade as three of the top four seeds at state in the traditional competiton. Tofade won the region title with a 385-pound total, tops among state qualifiers. James is seeded second with her 355 total, while Gainesville’s Ori Sela, who won the Region 1-2A title, is tied with Whitmore with a 350-pound qualifying total.

Matanzas’ Alicia Naticchione, a first-year senior lifter, also qualified for state in the 199-pound Olympic competition with a 295-pound total in the snatch and clean and jerk. Naticchione placed sixth at region.

Matanzas’ Sarah Sanchez placed fifth in traditional in the 154 pound-class with a 285-pound total but missed qualifying by 10 pounds. The 20th qualifier lifted 290 pounds but also would have gotten in over Sanchez in a tie based on body weight at the regional weigh-ins.


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