Six Gainesville Lady Leopards are headed to Friday’s Class 4A state powerlifting meet in Corpus Christi after Gainesville claimed a second-place finish at the regional championship two weeks ago.

Mirthsa Zamora, Angel Saenz, Ashlynn Garrison, Aaliyah Henry, Emily Constantino and Carolanne Condi will take their talents to state while several setting records and personal bests in the process.

“It’s a big deal,” Gainesville powerlifting head coach Kenneth Wilkerson said. “You’re competing against all the girls in your region that goes from the other side of Wichita Falls to the south side of Dallas. Our girls really performed well. They did a good job. We’re on the right track and our girls are starting to believe and buy in. Our numbers are growing and it’s great for our program.”

Wilkerson said as well as the team performed, he knows there is still room for improvement.

“We didn’t do all the things I thought we could do,” Wilkerson said. “We left some weight on the bar and we had some mental busts. Nothing is ever perfect, but in hindsight, we were pretty pleased. We think the girls performed really, really well. We were really happy with what they did.”

Each lifter competed in three events – the squad, the bench press and the deadlift.

Aaliyah Henry took first place at the regional meet in the 198-pound weight class and she is primed to make some serious noise in Corpus Christi as she is the top-ranked lifter in Class 4A.

Henry also set the Division II Region 6 record for the squat and bench total along with the heavy platform best lifter, best bench and best deadlift.

Henry’s 1160 total pounds were nearly 200 pounds better than the second-place finisher. Henry posted a 440-pound squat, a 315-pound bench press and a 405-pound deadlift.

“She’s first in the state right now,” Wilkerson said. “She’s got a 35-pound lead on the next closest girl to her at state. A lot of hers is natural talent. To be that strong, you have to have some God-given ability. She’s got a great competitive spirit. Anytime she thinks somebody’s going to beat her, she will die to win. She wants to be good so bad, that she’s able to achieve more than she thought she could.”

Emily Constantino also finished in first place at regionals in her 259-pound weight class as she totaled 895 total pounds in all three events.

“She’s the best story,” Wilkerson said. “She’s a senior and has always been a consistent performer, but never toward the top, but she’s excelled this year. Watching that success has been awesome and she’s also poised to medal at state.”

Condi took second place in her 259-plus-pound weight class with a total of 1025 pounds.

“Carolanne is comfortably in the top three and she was the big surprise last year with her drive and what she did,” Wilkerson said. “This year isn’t a surprise, but she’s continued to improve.”

In the 97-pound weight class, Zamora finished in third place with 425 total pounds in her three events.

Saenz finished in fourth place in her 132-pound weight class with a total of 715 pounds in all three events while Garrison finished in third place in the 181-pound weight class with a total of 860 pounds.

“Garrison was a big surprise this year,” Wilkerson said. “She’s poised to be in the top five and she had one great meet and took off from there. She had an off day and still made it. She could have a pretty good day and get second.”

After last year’s state meet was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wilkerson said the team is extremely motivated to perform Friday, March 19.

Leading up to the state meet, Wilkerson said the team has been homing in on what it needs to improve on. The Lady Leopards aren’t overhauling their process, but they’re making little tweaks to optimize their lifts.

“A lot of people put stock in the physicality of it, but to me it’s much more of a mental game,” Wilkerson said. “You have to get yourself up for that moment and it’s not like something where you get to pick your moment. They call you up and you don’t get to wait until you’re ready. You have to go do it then. You have to be ready when it’s time and I think that’s the hardest part of it.”

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