Like many athletes who take up competitive weightlifting, Annabelle Anderson was more focused on fitness than winning. But it wasn’t long before that changed.

A dedicated runner at Charlotte High, Anderson was looking to improve her numbers on the track by adding some strength in the weight room. However, she soon found out how fun it was to stand atop the podium at weightlifting meets.

“I never really thought about competing in weightlifting, but it grew on me as I stuck with it,” she said. “Sophomore year was kind of a test for me to see if I wanted to do it, and I ended up loving it.

“I realized I was good at it, and if I’m good at something, I love to do it. It was a lot of stress relief, too.”

In a year in which she broke a school record and brought home a state championship, Anderson was the clear choice for the Sun‘s Girls Weightlifter of the Year.

After sticking with the sport through her sophomore season, Anderson began to make a name for herself as a junior — finishing fourth at the state championships.

With such a promising finish to the year, she approached her senior season with a new mindset.

“I came in focusing on becoming a state champion,” Anderson said. “If I’m being honest, that’s where my mind was because my coach told me, ‘You have a really good shot at it.’

“So I stayed later at practice to do some extra drills and exercises. My coach told me, ‘If you do everything you can, you won’t have any regrets,’ and he was right.”

That extra work paid off immediately as she broke the school record in the clean and jerk with a 185-pound lift. That hot start never ended for Anderson, who won a district championship and a regional championship in the 129-pound weight class by over 30 pounds.

However, the state championships were less of a sure thing.

After watching nearly all of her competitors lift before her, the senior went into her lift with a good idea of what she needed to do. With a 170-pound bench press (second best in the field) and a 185-pound clean and jerk (best in the field), she beat Haylee Gamble of New Symrna Beach by 10 pounds to win the state title.

“We’re very proud of Annabelle for winning a state championship this year,” Charlotte girls weightlifting coach Matt Galley said. “She’s an example for all high school athletes of how hard work and dedication to your craft leads to success.”

Once Galley did some quick math, he told Anderson the good news — she was a state champion.

“I just started crying,” Anderson said. “I don’t even have words for it. I got back to the hotel that night and I was still in shock. I couldn’t believe it, it was a remarkable feeling.”

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