Girls Weightlifter of the Year

Interlachen’s Viers appreciates how competitors support one another

It began with a word of encouragement. It continued with words of encouragement.

From a physical education class in the ninth grade to the state meet as a senior, Brittany Viers has given and received many words of encouragement.

The words have made weightlifting her favorite sport, one in which she has excelled at Interlachen High School.

A district and regional champion and the county’s only qualifier for the state meet, Viers is the Daily News’ Girls Weightlifter of the Year.

“She encourages everybody every day,” said IHS coach Ron Whitehurst, who leaned on Viers’ leadership on a district championship team heavily populated with underclassmen. “She’s a happy-go-lucky kid. She enjoys life.”

She found she enjoyed weightlifting once she was coaxed into competing by Mike Cullison, the former Rams football and boys weightlifting coach.

“Back in my freshman year, I just did it for a P.E. credit and coach Cullison said ‘you should do it,” so I decided to try it as a sport my sophomore year,” Viers said.

She was encouraged along the way as her total lift – bench press combined with clean and jerk – rose from 250 pounds as a sophomore to 315 as a senior. Viers tried to give as much encouragement as she got.

“Other sports, everybody’s against you. (In) weightlifting, everybody cheers you on,” she said. “Palatka’s cheering for Interlachen. Interlachen’s cheering for Hawthorne. It’s amazing.”

Viers also played tennis at IHS and participated in basketball, volleyball and soccer in middle school. None gave her the feeling of camaraderie she found in the weight room.

“Out of all the sports I’ve played, weightlifting is No. 1. It’s one of the few sports that everybody cheers everybody on,” Viers said. “We want each other to do the best we possibly could do.

“In practice, there’s no can’ts in the weight room. There’s always try. They can do it if they out their minds to it and I always tried to encourage them.”

Whitehurst was not surprised by what Viers achieved on her own and what she helped others achieve. He expects a number of this season’s sophomores to succeed Viers as state qualifiers in 2017.

Competing in the unlimited weight class, Viers swept to county, district and regional titles before the going got rough at the Florida High School Athletic Association championships in February in Kissimmee. She said she felt herself getting sick during regional competition and needed the two weeks between that meet and state to recover.

“She’s not a big heavyweight. She was going against girls who were 100 pounds heavier,” Whitehurst said. “I think if she could have stayed at 199 pounds, she could have had a shot at medaling.

“I thought she’d do pretty well this year. She’s very strong and she wasn’t a bad little tennis player.”

Certainly time in the weight room has its benefits in other venues, including the tennis court, but Viers found she had to be careful.

“I had to control my strength in tennis because if I hit the ball too hard, I’d hit it over the fence or hit my teammates,” she said. “But if I controlled my strength, I hit it well.”

Due to graduate on Tuesday, Viers hopes to draw on her experiences in athletics as she pursues a degree in pharmacy, starting at Santa Fe College before transferring to the University of Florida.

She’ll look for encouragement along the way and is sure to encourage others.