The girls weightlifting program has only existed at Mooney for two years.
The sound was abrupt and guttural, as if a spirit was waking from a 1,000-year slumber.
Cardinal Mooney High junior Adrienne Boynes had let out a scream of strength. It was gone almost as suddenly as it was birthed. It had done its job: help Boynes complete a fifth-consecutive clean and jerk in preparation for the state girls weightlifting meet on Feb. 14-15 in Panama City Beach. Boynes held the barbell over her head for a few seconds before dropping it with a clunk. Her coaches hollered and clapped. Boynes looked as though she'd done it a million times.
"It's a lot more fun than it looks," Boynes said.
The 6-foot-tall Boynes won the 199-pound division of her regional meet on Feb. 2 at Lemon Bay High, bench pressing 125 pounds and lifting a personal-best 150 pounds in the clean and jerk to beat Booker High's Detoria Gordon by five pounds. This was after finishing second to Gordon at the district meet, when the duo tied in the bench press, but Boynes failed to lift 140 pounds. The difference in the two performances was confidence. Boynes was full of it at the regional meet, she said, with a sense of calm washing over her once she saw other competitors starting at the same weight she was, 125 pounds. Usually, Boynes said, she's scared of meets, especially the clean and jerk, because "so much can go wrong."
Lately, so much has been going right for Boynes. The girls weightlifting program has only existed at Cardinal Mooney for two seasons. Boynes, who also participates in track and field, said she joined the program to be a part of something new, to help build something she and the school could feel proud about. Plus, she has always had raw strength, she said, but never a vessel in which to channel it. Last year, Boynes' technique was not as refined as it is now, and while that raw strength carried her to regionals, she finished outside the top six and did not qualify for states. This year, Boynes' mind — and the adrenaline from performing on that stage — carried her to victory.
Boynes' coach, Scott Ruane, has marveled at her improvement — and her dedication to reaching this level.
"Increasing your bench (press) is tough, because that is built through strength over time," Ruane said. "But the clean and jerk is about form and technique. You have to work on it over and over. Adrienne has proven to be one of the best we have at the clean and jerk. She has long arms and long legs, which can be a disadvantage in weightlifting, but she is proving that it doesn't always matter as long as you have the right technique."
Boynes is so popular in the weight room, other members of the team will stick around after school to lift with her, even though their seasons are now over. Her regional win has prompted other Mooney athletes to take notice of her and the program, Boynes said. That was one of her goals: To get the program on par with the traditional powerhouse sports.
Boynes said her other goal is to finish top-three at the state meet. She will likely have to set more personal records to do so, based on the competition. That hasn't stopped her yet. As someone who typically needs a nap after helping move a friend's couch, I have a ton of respect for people like Boynes, who push through pain to do amazing things. Best of luck to her and the other competitors: No matter what happens, you've impressed this columnist, and a lot of other people, too.