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By DANNY P. SMITH
Latedra Buckhalter wants a first-place finish as she competes for Starkville High School today in the 220-pound class during the Mississippi High School Association state championship powerlifting meet.
The reason isn't what one might think.
Buckhalter doesn't necessarily want personal glory, but she's thinking about what best helps the team.
"We would like to finish first, because if you come in first everyone on the team gets a ring so that's a goal," Buckhalter said.
The Yellowjackets are all in this together as seven members of the powerlifting team put their skills to the test at Jackson's Memorial Coliseum. The meet begins bright and early at 8 a.m.
"I hate we didn't have enough meets to get more people qualified," Starkville powerlifting coach Willie Gillespie said. "I'm just proud of the guys and girls who participated in powerlifting this year. I'm glad to have seven people going down. It's an exciting time of the year. It's always an exciting time to go down, compete and see how good you are against the best competition in the state. We're looking to have a good showing. We look forward to having the program growing a little bit."
Buckhalter is one of three senior Lady Jackets participating as Jondia Weatherspoon lifts in the 148-pound class and Latrecia Halbert competes in the 198-pound class.
For the Jackets, Kjuan Harvey lifts in the 114-pound class, Raphael McClain competes in the 132-pound class, Ladorius Pittman participates in the 148-pound class, and Marcus Tate in the 275-pound class.
"Marcus Tate is the only senior (on the boys side) so he's one of the veteran guys," Gillespie said. "Everyone else is sophomores so we'll have them for three more years.
"All three girls that made it to Jackson are seniors so we'll definitely be looking for people to replace them next year. Hopefully, this will encourage more girls to come out, participate and get more people qualified for next year."
Weatherspoon said being a part of the team has been positive for her.
"It's been fun and have built some new relationships," Weatherspoon said. "It has allowed us to meet people we've never really talked to at school."
Gillespie understands that success will be very difficult to find at the state meet, but believes the experience will benefit the lifters and can lead to better things for them in the future.
Tate said the challenge will be great because of the three weeks between the North Half and state meets when opponents can improve their weights.
"I was hoping we'd go down there and dominate, but even if we don't win, as long as we go and do our best, that's all that matters," Tate said.
This is the first time Halbert has been to state and intends on winning a medal, while Weatherspoon has been working on getting reps with the bench and squat to improve her chances to place.
Buckhalter said there are certain keys to having success in powerlifting.
"You have to be focused and make sure you get plenty of rest," Buckhalter said.