Local weightlifter takes national stage today

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Very little about this 16-year-old screams top-ranked national weightlifter.


And that’s the way she likes it.


“Most people think of the big bulky people,” Dougherty said. “It’s just kind of in my genes. I’m not a stick, but I’m pretty strong.”


That’s putting it lightly. Dougherty is entering today’s USA Weightlifting Youth National Championships in Port Orange as the No. 1 lifter in her division. She can snatch 134 pounds. She can clean and jerk 182 – almost 1½ times her body weight.


Not bad for 18 months of training.


Dougherty started lifting at 14. Friends of her parents had opened a gym, Crossfit 239, in Fort Myers. A former swimmer, Dougherty was ready for something new, something different.


“She’s not a frou-frou girly girl,” her mother, Verella Dougherty, said. “I wanted to take her somewhere where it wasn’t all about, ‘Oh, look at me!’ and working out to be skinny or fit in a dress, but where it was about fitness and strength.”


Adrian Dougherty proved a natural at the pushups, pull-ups and lifts required in Crossfit. But it was a December 2012 clinic with USA Weightlifting coach Danny Camargo that nudged her focus.


“He was like, ‘You know, you could be good at this,’” Dougherty said. “I guess he saw something in me.”


So she turned her attention to the two Olympic lifts: snatch and clean-and-jerk. Dougherty devotes two hours a day, five days a week to those movements. Fellow gym members have helped the youngster develop her technique. Crossfit 239 owner Josh Wright designed a training regimen to strengthen key muscle groups. And somewhere along the way he unwittingly became her coach.


“I guess it was that first competition in Daytona,” Wright laughed. “Neither of us had any idea what we were doing. We just kind of followed along and figured it out. It of course helps that she’s really strong.”


Dougherty placed third in that first competition, earning a spot at last year’s Youth National Championships in Missouri. There she finished second. Since then she’s competed in the American Open Championships in Dallas. This spring she spent 10 days at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. And she was one ranking away from representing the country at the Pan-American Youth Championships in Lima, Peru, in May.


A win today would boost that ranking, meaning more travel, more elite training and more exposure for this young mathlete-slash-weightlifter.


“It’s hard to really see the full picture with just a year of training under my belt,” Dougherty said. “But I mean, Tokyo 2020 — it would be pretty cool.”


If you go


What: USA Weightlifting Youth National Championships


Who: 400 athletes ages 17 and younger competing for national rankings


Where: Spruce Creek High School; 101 Taylor Road, Port Orange


When: Local athlete Adrian Dougherty will compete tonight starting at 6. The competition continues through Sunday



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