Chris Cozart was toiling away in weightlifting class last week, and the Evans High School junior could break a smile just as easily as breaking a sweat.
All he had to do was think about his breakthrough debut at the state weightlifting championships.
"I was more than satisfied. It was my first time going to state and I didn't know what to expect. I just tried to do my best," he said.
Competing in the 176-to-185 pound weight class, Cozart placed fourth in the all-classification state event, which was held at Wheeler Middle School in Macon. He posted a bench press of 305 pounds, had 395 in the squat and 245 in the power clean.
Cozart kept his focus while lifting, but he couldn't help but notice some Incredible Hulk-type specimens strolling around at state.
"In my weight class, everybody was about as big as me, but in the upper weight classes, they were monsters. They were huge," he said.
Cozart checks in at 5-7, 180 pounds. While he claims his weight-lifting prowess comes naturally, he admittedly has made great physical strides since he began lifting as a freshman.
"I came from a little butterball to where I am now," Cozart said. "You have to discipline yourself and push yourself to the limit."
Preparation is paramount to attain peak performance, according to Cozart. In addition to his lifting regimen at Evans, he regularly works out on his own, and focuses on cardiovascular exercises to complement his muscle building.
"He loves the weight room," Evans lifting coach Rodney Garvin said. "You don't have to get on him to come in and get his work done every day."
Cozart finished second in the region qualifier earlier this month, and was the only Columbia County athlete to advance to the state competition.
But another Evans High junior raised some eyebrows during the region qualifier at Jefferson County.
Taylar Stallings finished fifth overall in the 135-pound and under division. Stallings bested all of her male opponents in the squat, as her 300-pound performance won outright.
"She's very strong for a young lady, and she also has a great work ethic," Garvin said. "I've only been around her for a while, but she's impressive."
Only the top two finishers at region qualified for state, but Stallings earned a medal by placing in the top six in her weight class.
Like Stallings, Cozart is a multi-sport athlete at Evans. He played fullback and nose guard for the football team last season, and will be back on the gridiron as a senior. He also wants to compete in wrestling and track next year, but he won't stop raising the bar in competition weight lifting.
"I ain't quitting on this. My passion is the weight room," he said.
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