It was Acuna's first year lifting for the Hawks.
Kiara Acuna doesn’t get nervous or anxious.
In the heat of competition, Spruce Creek's junior weightlifter is steady as a rock. She doesn’t let her emotions overtake her.
Her steady demeanor was forged over years of competing on the state and national level as an Olympic lifter.
“I’ve always been taught staying calm is the best way to go so you don’t psych yourself out,” Acuna said. “When you get anxious, you start to think too much. It breaks you down mentally and you crumble.”
When she went head-to-head with Charlotte High School’s Lexus Sweet in the Class 2A girls weightlifting state championship on Feb. 8 at Arnold High School in Panama City Beach, she was as focused as ever.
Acuna, who competes in the 139-pound weight class, bench pressed 165 pounds, a personal. Sweet benched 190.
Next came the clean-and-jerk, which is Acuna’s strongest discipline. Sweet could only manage 180. Acuna started with 190 and lifted it with ease.
She hit 210 on her second lift, which guaranteed her a gold medal in the event, but she remained focused. She had tunnel vision.
Acuna powered the bar high above her head, but she wasn’t going to give the officials an opportunity to red light her lift attempt. With all her might, she slammed the weight back down onto the box. After high-fiving Spruce Creek head coach David Nelson, Acuna sprinted into the stands to hug her step father John Ferguson, her best friend.
The 215-pound lift set a Spruce Creek record in the clean-and-jerk and lifted Acuna to a 10-pound win over Sweet. The 16-year-old also became the Hawks’ 36th individual state champion.
This was Acuna’s first season lifting for the Hawks. She started powerlifting in eighth grade and eventually moved on to Olympic lifting, which she still competes in.
“This sport is my passion,” she said. “My future revolves around this.”