BRADEN RIVER — Sarah Weiss did not know what to expect.
It was her first year on the Braden River High girls weightlifting team, and the then-sophomore was simply trying to make it through the season.
A trip to the state finals was the furthest thing from her mind.
But, as the season progressed, Weiss found she had a knack for the sport, and it wasn’t long before Weiss surprised herself by winning her first district title.
She went on to finish third at the District 8 State Qualifier two weeks later and earn a berth in the state finals.
“I honestly didn’t expect anything at all,” Weiss says. “Going to regionals was very stressful. I didn’t know I would get stressed out in front of people.”
The stress of the state qualifier carried over into the state finals. Weiss missed her first lift and was unable to recover enough to make the podium.
“There were so many people watching,” Weiss says. “I was in shock.”
Weiss used the experience not only as a learning tool but also as motivation.
She spent the offseason working out in the gym with her father, Ben, who initially introduced Weiss to the sport.
She spent hours perfecting her form and improving her mental toughness.
Heading into this season, Weiss pushed aside thoughts of personal bests and school records and focused solely on one expectation — making a return trip to the state finals.
Weiss advanced one step closer to her ultimate goal when she won the 169-pound weight class at the District 8 Sub-Regional meet Jan. 9. With the win, Weiss earned a berth in the District 8 State Qualifier Jan. 22, at Charlotte High, where her teammates Taylor Wallace (154) and Spirit Cress (129), who also qualified for the meet, will join her.
“I just did what I could,” Weiss says. “I gave it my all. After that, whatever happens happens.”
Weiss credits her recent success, in large part, to her training at Suncoast Strength in Lakewood Ranch, where she began training at the end of December.
Weiss learned about the gym from Lakewood Ranch High lifter Riley Bohan, who also trains there, during a meet earlier in the season. She went to Suncoast Strength that night, and, since then, she’s been training there every day, working on bench presses, squats and incline bench presses, among other elements.
Now, Weiss hopes to finish in the top three at the state qualifier, which will earn her another berth in the state finals.
“It’s hard because you have to think about what you’re going to do before you’re actually doing it,” Weiss says. “Mentally, adding five pounds onto the bar feels like 30 pounds. It’s a mental game.
“I just want to get in the top three and go again,” Weiss says. “It would mean a lot to me because I’ve put a lot of time into the sport.”
Weiss has a personal best of 150 pounds in the bench press and 125 pounds in the clean and jerk.
Ultimately, Weiss would like to improve to 155 and 135 pounds, respectively.
“I think she’s in a better position this year than she was last year,” Braden River coach Ali Lacey says.
“She’s got a solid chance and is looking toward getting a better place at states.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].