Kjayla Martin's father could sense the pressure on his daughter before the FHSAA girls weightlifting state meet.
So Keith Martin went old school. He took out a pen and paper.
"I wanted her to know that we loved her, and whatever happened, we were proud of her," said Martin, who played basketball for Stony Brook University in New York. "I have written letters for her before, but this was special.
"In her [183-pound] weight class, being in the position she was in [seeded No.1], she was feeling that pressure."
Those words, combined with Martin's work in the weight room, lifted her to a state title and a state-record clean-and-jerk of 230 pounds. Martin is the All-Central Florida girls weightlifter of the year.
"I was feeling pressure because I didn't want to let my teammates down," said Kjayla (pronounced Kayla), who lifted a total of 380 pounds (150 on the bench press).
Martin, a sophomore, has been lifting weights for two years and only started to increase her strength for cheerleading. This year, she gave up cheerleading to concentrate on weightlifting.
The difference: A year ago, she finished 17th in the 169-pound class with a 305 total.
"It's pretty unusual to see someone make gains like that," Timber Creek coach Tyrone Harvey said. "I watched her do 215 [her previous best in the clean-and-jerk] pretty easily at the Metro Conference meet. Sometimes you look at a lift, and you can tell that is the maximum she can do.
"As easily as Kjayla lifted at Metro, I knew she was capable of doing more."
Kjayla qualified for the World Youth meet in Uzbekistan in April after finishing first in her age group at the USA Weightlifting Junior Nationals in Foster City, Calif. For Kjayla and her family, the past couple of weeks has been a whirlwind.
In the best possible way.
"I started to cry,'' Janet Martin said of her daughter's record lift at state. "My first thought was she was just going to tie the state record [220 pounds] but when I saw 230 go up, I couldn't believe it."
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