By CRAIG GARRETT

Arcadian Editor

As is said, big surprises often come in small packages.

In this case, it’s the comparatively tiny Downtown Athletic Club in Arcadia winning in state powerlifting competition. Four locals at an event in Fort Myers Beach earned medals for combined lifts in their categories, said Brad Hatch, the club’s owner. Powerlifting on June 22 placed state athletes in the Full Power category against one another in squat, bench and dead lifts. Top combined weight totals earn a win for age and weight groups. Two club lifters, Steven Jewell and Brittany Perez, took first place in their class. Autumn Gibson and Fredy Gomez also placed well in their flights, Hatch said.

“I’m just very proud to be associated with them,” Hatch said. “They’re awesome.”

Perez, a nurse at DeSoto Memorial Hospital, had lifted for a couple of years and winning made the hard work worth all that sweat and the occasional sore muscle, she said.

“I feel like I really accomplished something,” she said.

Like others wandering into a hobby or profession, Perez, a former DeSoto High soccer and volleyball athlete, wasn’t all that interested in dipping with, tugging or pushing chunks of steel … until life one day prompted a random stop at the Downtown Athletic Club, a clean and gritty gym such as the one Arnold Schwarzenegger may have started at. She couldn’t squat more than 100 pounds in the beginning, she said, the act of placing a metal bar across the shoulders and dipping with weights affixed to either end. In a little over two years, Perez will now squat over 300 pounds, or the size of a small motorcycle. And because weightlifting often requires a training partner, she’s discovered new friends and fellow lifters.

“It is a very supportive sport,” she said.

Hatch said his informal Downtown Athletic Club crew heads south to Key Largo in December. 20 N. Polk, Facebook.

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