Clarion’s And Altamonte Springs, Florida’s Own Ava Brooks Completes An Amazing Weightlifting Season For Lake Brantley High

All photos submitted. Lake Brantley photos by Anke Cirillo – Above: Ava with medals at the District 6 Meet.

Ava Brooks, who spends much time in the Clarion area with family and friends, had superb season competing in weightlifting and powerlifting for the Lake Brantley High School Patriots Girls’ Weightlifting Team, in Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) events, winning a number of championships. Lake Brantley, which is located in the Orlando suburb of Altamonte Springs, competes in Class-3A.

Ava, a seventeen year old senior, competed in the 139 pound division. She completed an undefeated regular season and went on to win the Seminole Athletic Conference championship, District 6 championship, Region 2 championship. She then finished eighth in the FHSSA State Championships for Olympic.

Ava on the top of the podium at the Seminole Athletic Conference Meet.

She began her tournament run on Wednesday, January 11th, with Lake Brantley hosting the Seminole Athletic Conference Tournament. Ava finished first in Traditional, which consists of the bench press and clean and jerk, with a 315 total. She totaled 275 in Olympic, which consists of clean and jerk and snatch, for a second place finish. 

Next, it was on to the District 6 Tournament, on Saturday, January 25th at Evans High School in Orlando. Ava finished first in both Traditional and Olympic at districts. She had a 140 bench press and 145 clean and jerk, to win the Traditional with a 285 total. Ava’s winning total of 245 in Olympic included a 100 in the snatch and a 145 clean and jerk.

Ava with other medal winners at Region 2 Meet

Then, it was the Region 2 Tournament, at Winter Springs High School, on Friday, February 3rd, where she again captured both the Traditional title and and finished third in Olympic.

Ava’s win in Traditional was her second in a row, having also won in 2022. She totaled 315, with a 145 bench press and a 170 clean and jerk. She had a 115 in the snatch and a 170 in the clean and jerk, for a 285 total in Olympic.

The FHSSA State Meet was held by Lakeland High School at the Polk County Schools RP Funding Center’s Jenkins Arena on Saturday, February 19th. There, Ava came away with an eighth place finish in Olympic with a 290 total, which included a 120 snatch and 170 clean and jerk, and a tenth place in Traditional, where she had a 140 bench press and 170 clean and jerk, for a 310 total.

Another honor came Ava’s way, as she was selected to represent Seminole County, in the 139 pound weight class, in the First Annual Florida AAU All-Star Meet, which was held on Saturday, March 4th at Leesburg High School.

Lake Brantley’s Florida AAU All-Star Meet: Coach Collins, Taylor-Howard Scott, Caris Roberson, Ava Brooks, Lydia Falvey

She finished second in Traditional with a total of 325, which included a 155 bench press and a 170 clean and jerk.

Ava, who began competing as a sophomore, developed pretty quickly in the sport and had a pretty solid junior season, placing third in the conference, first at districts and first at regionals placing sixteenth at states.

Ava shared her thoughts about her senior season. “This season I was undefeated in the dual meets. This is just regular season meets that we have against one other team. I also won the Seminole Athletic Conference going up against 8 schools who are in our county. Next, I won districts which was a back-to-back win (2022 and 2023) going up against 6 schools. Regionals, I won with huge competition. This was a back-to-back win as well, with about 20 schools in our region.

“Getting 1st at regionals gives you a straight ticket to states. I remember feeling ecstatic at regionals because me and another girl were back-to-back in our weight and I had a ton of pressure on my back. I had to complete #170 clean and jerk which would be a PR in order to secure the win.”

Ava’s joy was shared with her coach. “I remember hitting it and getting a shock on my face, I looked at scoreboard and I had three white lights, meaning it was a good lift. I remember clapping and screaming, which I never show any emotions. Coach Diesel was right there screaming and hugging me. It was the best moment. He said, ‘“’Now that’s how you put pressure on someone!!’ I walked off that platform with adrenaline and tears coming out, I was so happy.”

Ava and Coach David Rollins (Coach Diesel) at States.

And then the Big Meet! “Fast forward to states. The nerves were real because I wanted to do my best because last year, I had lots of mental blocks that made me do not so good at states. I was definitely really nervous but once I got done with that first lift, they started to fall away.

“At states, I PR’d in Snatch with #120. I remember being very nervous because I had failed my first attempt because of how nervous I was. Then, I hit my max #170 clean and jerk. However, I didn’t do too well at bench but I blame it on low energy. We started lifting at 6pm and went till 10:30. I was just satisfied with doing everything I could and being better than I was last year.”

Ava with Mom and Step Dad Ashley and Ryan Starling

Ava had a sizeable cheering section at states, which she credits, in part for much of her success. “At states, I had my mom, stepdad, my aunt from PA, and family friends who have been there since I was a baby (my aunt’s best friend and their family). I felt overwhelmed with love because I knew all of them traveled there to see me lift. Last year, I didn’t have anyone there so having them there supporting me felt amazing and gave me that boost of confidence. It was also my last year lifting because I’m a senior, so it was bittersweet to receive all the love and support at my last state meet.

Tanya Brooks, Brandee and Holden Tuccy at States.

“Second in Traditional 325 Total (the highest I’ve gotten) 155 on bench  and 170 on clean and jerk 

10th overall! I’m so happy with my progress and hard work this season (even though I wanted that top 6 medal lol). Insane and tough competition at this level but I LOVE IT.

“More than happy to have been given this opportunity. And to one of the best sports.”

Ava shared her thoughts about her final competition. “The All-Star Invite Meet was March 4th at Leesburg High School. I got to represent Seminole County for my weight class (139) We went up against lots of other counties with top girls in the state who got invited. I placed 2nd at this meet and competed “Traditional” (bench plus clean and jerk total) My total was 325 (the highest I’ve gotten) with 155 on bench  and 170 on Clean and Jerk  It was a lot of fun and there was zero pressure because it was just a meet to showcase your strength one last time.”

While in Clarion, Ava helps serve at her cousin Ezra’s “E-Z Dogs” hot dog stand, which contributes proceeds to various organizations involved in Down Syndrome causes. “I love supporting a small business especially since its my cousin. He and my aunt (Tanya) have worked so hard to make it happen.” 

Ava with Ezra and others who were there to cheer her on at States.

Ava shared about how she began training. “I remember going up to PA for spring break and then having the COVID-19 shutdown. We were then up there for 6 months doing online school and for the summer, because we always go up in that time.

Eain Brooks Kaitlyn Constantino, Ava Brooks Jordan Best outside the original BRX gym

“During that time period, my dad started using my grandparent’s garage to train us because there was simply nothing else for us to do. I didn’t have any prior weightlifting experience so this jump started that.

“I grew up as a competitive gymnast and then a dancer for four years after. In the 2020 shutdown, I was only a freshman. I was very shy and didn’t join anything my first year of high school. However, training with my dad and some other Clarion kids really boosted my confidence to start other sports in high school.

Ava on the track

“My training partner in that time who is now one of my best friends, Jordan Best, did it all with me as well as starting with the old garage weights. Also, Kaitlyn Constantino, started to join us and we continued all summer long.

“Now, I come up during breaks and the summer, and still meet up with them to train at Forell Barbell. Now we have an even larger group who I always train with, Taylor Alston and Maci Grenci.

(L-R) Emily Best- MVP of KSAC Girls’ Soccer – North Clarion/Forest, Maci Grensi Maci – Clarion-Limestone, Kaitlyn Constantino – Grove City College, Jordan Best – Gannon, Ava

“It’s amazing to see how all of us have come such a long way and my dad has collected basically the whole county because of this training program. It’s very special to me to know that my dad has made an impact on so many people’s lives and especially the biggest on mine. I wouldn’t be who I am without him and his drive to make me the best I can be.”

And Ava’s training in the Sunshine State. “In Florida, I train mostly at Lake Brantley’s Weight room. However on days where I have a cheer practice or game, I will lift on my own time at Retro Fitness.

“My main training partner at Retro and someone who joined me this year at weightlifting is Amayah Knox. She is the best and was willing to try something new her senior year. It was the best season I’ve had yet and I give her credit for that because she was my biggest supporter.

Lake Brantley Girls Weightlifting Team and Coaches – Coach Collins, Amayah Knox, Emily Roman, Riley Clayton, Lydia Falvey, Mary Bonnett, Maya Silver, Caris Roberson, Taylor Howard Scott, Ava Brooks, Coach Diesel

“At my school’s weight room, I spent lots of hour there after school and would somedays leave straight from there to work.

“My schedule is definitely packed during the year because of the many practices, meets, games and working three times a week. However, my coach for the past three years, Coach Diesel, he gets me through it. He is always so honest and upfront, telling me what I’m doing wrong and well. On bad days, he always tries to calm me down so I don’t get overwhelmed with myself. I appreciate him being by my side since I was a sophomore.

“A new coach we had this year, Coach Collins has been amazing as well. He is so supportive and is always hype to see me PR and beat competition. I want to thank both of them and all my teammates who are just as hardworking as me. Caris Roberson, Taylor Howard-Scott, and Lydia Falvey are three of my teammates that killed it this season and qualified for States as well. I’ve spent so much time with them and I will cherish all the memories made from this season.”

Ava in action

Coach David Rollins (Coach Diesel) had some fine things to say about Ava.

“Ava is a wonderful young lady. She has really blossomed over the last few years and really exceeded my expectations. When I met her as a sophomore, you never know how someone is going to take the sport of high school weightlifting. It is really the best of both worlds as a team sport that has an individual component. Even if your team doesn’t necessarily end up being successful, you can end up being successful as an individual.

“I think one of the reasons that she thrived is because she is a great leader on the team, showing up and doing the extracurricular stuff. The weightlifting is great. She comes to the weight room more than we required her to be. She’d stay and she’d help the other girls with their technique or their form. We have community outings and team events and she’d come to those as well.

“Not only was she an individual athlete; but she was a team athlete as well. I can’t say enough great stuff about her, what she meant to this team over the last three years.

“She’s a great girl.”

And on the Lake Brantley weightlifting team as a whole. “Frequently we graduate ten seniors. This year is not normal in the sport of weightlifting, for girls at least. You may have a nice, younger class, sophomores and freshmen, which we do also have. Normally when they get to their senior year, they start focusing on other stuff. I think we had a lot of buy-in this year with more seniors. They enjoyed the family culture that we cultivated with our Patriots lifting team and they all decided to stick around.

“We’re graduating ten of them. It’s going to be hard to replace them. It’s wonderful to see them all grow and mature, meet those individual goals and those team goals. This year, we were district runner-up, third in the region and third in the conference. We took four girls to the state championships, which is the most we took in almost a decade.

“They really bought in as a team, which we are trying to do. And hopefully (we’ll have) fifteen to twenty-plus underclassmen coming back next year to continue that.

“I’ve got a senior class that I’m going to really miss.”

Ava’s Dad Eain Brooks I couldn’t be more proud of Ava. But…her success was no surprise to me.

When she was three, I put her in gymnastics. She excelled. As she progressed she became competitive. And then her coach was Wendy Bruce. Wendy placed 3rd in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. So…Ava excelled there also.

We would travel to Tampa and Miami for meets and she really did well. And she despised poor performance. So…she worked hard.

At the same time she would travel with me to Bally Total Fitness from Orlando to Miami…so she grew up in Fitness. She saw me training clients and training other trainers or teaching courses and so I think being a gym rat kinda just was natural to her. I was always working out or running and she was too.

When she was two years old, I remember her being at the track with me where I’d train in downtown Orlando right in front of the old Orange Bowl and I’d be training and I couldn’t keep her still. She wanted to run and compete and be fast….be the best. Nobody taught her that…it was innate.

Dad Eain and Ava at Senior Night

She always knew you had to work hard to be great…and her work ethic has always just been a natural thing for her. Ava truly has no limits, so I can only imagine what she will do next. Ya know…Ava isn’t like most girls her age…yes she is young and beautiful…but she isn’t afraid of being strong and beautiful. She knows who she is and who she wants to be…..and let me tell you… there is nothing she loves more than outlifting boys!!! Lol.

Ava’s Mom Ashley Starling said, “ I am so proud of how far Ava has come after 3 years of weightlifting seasons. She started her freshman year with her dad and made it all the way to States. Her dedication has truly been inspirational.”

Ava with her Mom Ashley Starling

Aunt Tanya Brooks shared, “I’m just so proud of Ava and her work ethic. She’s a humble, yet, determined competitor! And she never takes the opportunities before her for granted.”

As for future plans, Ava said, “I plan on going to FAU (Florida Atlantic University) in Boca Raton, Florida. I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life and moving on from my high school days. It’s sad to grow up, but it’s also so exciting because I know new things are starting and I’m adulting.

“I plan on majoring in Exercise Science to further go into Physical Therapy or Athletic Training. I’m thinking about minoring in business but I’m not 100% sure.

“I definitely want to stay in the sports world because it’s my passion. I’m going to stay in athletics for the next couple of years, maybe running track for the school. And of course, I’ll stay lifting!”

Ava with other Lake Brantley Cheer Squad members on Senior Night

Congratulations to Ava and all of those involved in the this wonderful journey!!!! All the best in your future endeavors, Ava!!!!

(Thanks to all who contributed comments and/or photos for this article!!)