Kiara Wood is a dancer.
Wood, however, gets some odd looks when she tells them she is on the River Ridge High girls weightlifting team.
“I know, it’s a weird combination,’’ the junior said.
Wood may be one of the top weightlifters in Pasco County, especially bench pressing 140 pounds and having a 145-pound clean and jerk in the 119-pound class that lets her keep the lean look of a dancer. This year, Wood leads the Royal Knights as a real threat to qualify for the FHSAA Girls Weightlifting State Finals in Kissimmee.
River Ridge will need Wood, though, after losing the program’s greatest lifter, Alexis LiCalsi, who won a state title in the 139-pound class.
No one is expecting Wood to be the new LiCalsi, but she is taking on the leadership role and her coach, Mike DeGennaro, feels she can bring home some medals, which is, obviously, Wood’s main goal.
And DeGennaro has helped this remarkable girl along.
“He’s very motivating,’’ she said. “He helps on technique and stuff like that. He’s just a great person to talk to if you want to cut weight or gain. He’s like a dad to me.”
“She works hard like Alexis,’’ DeGennaro said. “She is a returning state qualifier.
She set some goals and hopefully, she will attain them. Kiara is a great kid.”
Molina becomes assistant coach
Former River Ridge girls weightlifter Katie Molina became an assistant coach this year for the Royal Knights. She competed at state twice before graduating in June and is now attending Pasco-Hernando Community College.
Disparti to draw best of Suncoast
The annual Disparti Girls Weightlifting Invitational will be held Dec. 13 this year at River Ridge. The event draws many of the top girls weightlifting teams along the North Suncoast, including Sunlake, Citrus Lecanto, and Spring Hill Springstead.
Correspondent Larry Bugg covers prep girls weightlifting in Pasco County can be reached at email@example.com.