Turning heads: Coach, athletes get early morning haircut after winning crown
By By Paul Keane
Something slightly out of the ordinary took place shortly after midnight Saturday at Escambia Academy. It actually began at 12:33 a.m. Sunday.
Upon arriving at the field house at the school, members of the powerlifting team immediately sat head coach Heath Gibson in a chair and began shaving his head. In a show of team spirit, many of the members of the squad followed in kind, leaving them with various layers of hair – or lack thereof.
And while hair may come and go from the heads of the powerlifting team, one thing will remain constant – they are all members of the first-ever state champion powerlifting team at the school.
The Cougars and Lady Cougars combined their efforts Saturday at Pickens Academy to take the AISA Class 2A State Championship, the first in school history in what amounted to a mild upset of sorts.
"I was surprised somewhat," said Gibson, who told his team on the way to the meet that they could shave his head if they won the title. "Especially since we were moving up to 2A this year, and the fact that this was only the third year we've competed in the meet, I was a little surprised. I felt like we had a chance, but didn't know if we could pull it off this year."
Gibson resorted to a little bit of sneaky motivation, telling his team that Southern Academy was close behind EA in the points standing heading into the final events.
"Southern Academy finished second with 14 points and we ended up with 24 points," Gibson said. "After the bench press, were were 10 or 12 points ahead of them, but I made the kids think they were closer to us than they were because I didn't want us to relax or let down."
The team didn't let down, as a number of athletes brought home top finishes in the meet.
J.R. Hall won a state title in the 232-pound weight class, bench pressing 300 pounds, deadlifting 500 and lifting 450 pounds in the squat.
Bruce Smith also won a state title in the 114-pound weight class, benching 155 pounds, squatting 255 pounds and deadlifting 270 pounds. Alan Ash finished second in the 82-pound weight class while Matt Ash finished third in the 105-pound weight class. Tyler Wilkins in the 258-pound class and Kevin White in the 181-pound class both finished fourth.
"It was a team effort all the way around," Gibson said. "All the kids made every lift count, and they just kept building up the points.
"This is my first state title as a head coach, and this is something I really wanted for our kids. I am very proud of them."
Gibson said the work this offseason should also pay off in more than just a powerlifting title, with benefits hopefully being seen next year on the football field.
"A lot of these guys have been paying the price and have worked really hard in the offseason," he said. "Some guys have been staying for an hour or two after school and working out just to get in some more time in the weight room.
"The kids have worked hard in the weight room and they will continue to work hard. That will pay off for us on the football field this spring and next fall. This will carry over into football for us if we build upon it and keep working hard."