The days are dwindling down before Mark Latsko will leave Hernando High and return to his alma mater, Gainesville High, to fully take over as head football coach.
On Wednesday, though, he was still wearing the Purple and Gold of the Leopards, guiding them through the Class 1A, District 6 Meet at Fivay.
Hernando was seeking a repeat of their district championship from a year ago, and with 11 lifters entering the meet had little trouble once again claiming first-place honors.
The Leopards’ team total of 47 points outdistanced second-place South Sumter with 31.
“We’ve got a new coach. He’s leaving, so we wanted to do something big before he leaves,” said O’Mar Hawkins, one of Hernando’s two individual champs. “And we’re all seniors, so we wanted to repeat.”
Hawkins and teammate Kyle Loparco are guaranteed a trip to states by virtue of their first-place finishes. So are individual winners Anthony DiNardo and Thomas Maynard of Weeki Wachee, and Nature Coast’s Derek Newman.
Everyone else will wait to see if they earned an at-large berth and a trip to the Kissimmee Civic Center on April 20.
Latsko, additionally defensive coordinator in football, head boys basketball coach, head boys tennis coach and co-athletic director at points during his time in Brooksville, will no longer be an employee of the local school system by then.
Nevertheless, he said, he’ll find a way attend the FHSAA Finals and finish off his one season at the weightlifting helm.
“I’ve had a great five-year run at Hernando,” Latsko said. “My last official coaching outing we win a district championship, so that puts an exclamation point on my Hernando career.”
It was certainly a team effort to make it two in a row for the Leopards, adding to their back-to-back county crowns. All 11 of their lifter scored points.
Hawkins faced little resistance in earning his second straight district title at 199 pounds. He benched 315 and hoisted 250 in the clean-and-jerk for a 565 total. The next closest competitor, Hudson’s Ty Poole, finished with a 485.
“Not as good as I wanted,” said Hawkins, who has posted a 580 this season. “I’ve been sick. But I did what I needed to do to win.”
Loparco, another senior, was also a repeat champ, posting a 350-265—615 that captured first place at 219 by 35 pounds over teammate Robert Hill Bronson (315-265—580).
However, on Loparco’s second bench attempt, he said he strained a pectoral muscle and gritted his way through the rest of his lifts.
“I’ve been working for this all season,” Loparco said. “There was so much adrenaline, I didn’t feel pain, all I felt halfway through my lift was a little snap.
“I expected to lift seven days a week until states. There’s no way I can do that now.”
David Goodwin added a second at 139 (205-205—410), as did Brandon Laursen at 238 (235-185—420) and Canaan Swackard at heavyweight (350-265—615).
“Obviously (a district title) was our goal coming in,” Latsko said. “You want to field a successful team and if the kids lift the weight they’re supposed to lift, the points add up for themselves.”
Newman paced a Nature Coast contingent that finished fifth overall with 18 points.
The senior pulled out the victory at 129, with a 185-190—375 that was a comfortable 30 pounds over second-place Cody Maddox of South Sumter.
“I missed it last year by five points and I made it my goal this year to come back and win it,” Newman said. “Even though I didn’t have my best day, it was enough to win.
“I do have a goal (at states). I’d like to try to get top six. But I’m going to train hard for the next two weeks and I can only do what my body allows me, and as long as I have my best day I can’t be disappointed.”
Weeki Wachee’s two champs are historic in that they are the first in the history of the third-year program.
DiNardo, a junior, benched 255 and reached 225 in the clean for a 480 at 183.
“I did expect to win, but as soon as I got here I saw I had some competition,” DiNardo said. “It’s good to have a little competition.
“It means a lot. From my freshman year of us having nothing and building up, slowing having a good program at the end, it’s pretty good.”
Maynard, a state qualifier in 2A with Central as a junior in 2011, continued his unbeaten season and earned his first district title.
Fourth place at districts a year ago, he took the 154 top spot with a 285 bench and 230 clean-and-jerk for a 515 total, besting second-place Anderson Faulk of South Sumter by 70 pounds.
“It’s better than fourth,” Maynard said. “I feel like my bench was real good, but my clean could have been better. It’s normally 15 pounds more, but I guess I was struggling today. It’s something I can work on before I get to states.
“I knew what to expect. I knew how hard it’d be, how the judges would be. I’ve been treating every meet like districts and states, so when I got here it was like normal.”
The Hornets ended up fourth overall, tallying 21 team points, one behind third-place Pasco.
“Our first year, we didn’t have a chance. Last year we didn’t send anyone to districts, and this year two guys won it, one finished third and two others got to compete,” Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee said.
“From our first year to this, there’s more interest, the kids are more committed, they’re more serious, and they’re seeing success and seeing results and they’re able to compete.”
Class 1A, District 6 Meet
1. Hernando (HER) 47, 2. South Sumter (SS) 31, 3. Pasco (PAS) 22, 4. Weeki Wachee (WW) 21, 5. Nature Coast (NCT) 18, 6. Hudson (HUD) 16, 7. Fivay (FIV) 12, 8. Crystal River (CR) 11, 9. Zephyrhills (ZEP) 7, 10. Gulf (GF) 4, 11. Wesley Chapel (WC) 2, 12. Anclote (ANC) 0
(Top six score points, first place automatically qualifies for states)
119 – 1. Macias (SS) 185-160—345, 4. French (HER) 140-105—245
129 – 1. Newman (NCT) 185-190—375, 3. Coniglio (HER) 165-135—300
139 – 1. Robinson (HUD) 265-185—450, 2. Goodwin (HER) 205-205—410, 3. Stevens (NCT) 215-195—410, 4. Hall (HER) 185-170—355
154 – 1. Maynard (WW) 285-230—515, 4. Maner (NCT) 235-190—425, 6. Looper (HER) 215-185—400
169 – 1. Mutcherson (ZEP) 280-235—515, 3. Pagano (WW) 265-200—465, 4. Ulloa (HER) 260-185—445
183 – 1. DiNardo (WW) 255-225—480, 3. Roscillo (NCT) 225-230—455
199 – 1. Hawkins (HER) 315-250—565, 4. Hartman (WW) 225-225—450
219 – 1. Loparco (HER) 350-265—615, 2. Bronson (HER) 315-265—580
238 – 1. Jordan (PAS) 385-250—635, 2. Laursen (HER) 235-185—420
HWT – 1. Henriquez (CR) 380-250—630, 2. Swackard (HER) 350-265—615