JAY — The small town of Jay has a lot of be proud of thanks to the efforts of Jay High School students Dylan Phillips Jr. and James Eddings. Phillips and Eddings placed in the FHSAA State Weightlifting Competition, marking the first time the school has made it to the state competition in over 10 years.

At the state championship, Phillips, a junior, tied for first in the 119-pound weight class and came in runner-up in the tiebreaker. Eddings, a senior, tied for 3rd in the 183-pound class with a total of 595 pounds and came in 4th in the tiebreaker. Jay High head weightlifting coach Jace Gandy said a tiebreaker comes down to the athletes' body weight. He said if athletes lift the same amount but one athlete weighs less, that athlete wins. 

Both men said they trained hard to prepare for the competition. For Eddings, who also played football for the school, he said it can be very rigorous.  

"I have a tight workout schedule," Eddings said. "I work out about three times a day."

Eddings said he decided to start playing football at four years old and felt weightlifting would benefit him.

"If you're stronger and bigger, you're better in games," he said.

Eddings said he feels weight training paid off, because next year he will be attending Warner University on a football scholarship.

Phillips said he started on the weightlifting team in 9th grade to make himself stronger, better, more courageous — and also to be on a team. 

"It was about enjoying fellowship with them, really," Phillips said, a sentiment Eddings echoed.

 Phillips said he feels like he will be carrying on the torch next year after Eddings graduates.

"I have some pretty big shoes to fill," Phillips said.

Phillips and Eddings said they were proud to represent Jay High in a state competition after so many years. Their advice to others in weightlifting was this — stay focused, work hard, but also enjoy it. They said they don't feel they have set a standard for others; but everyone should strive for their personal best. 

 Gandy, a Jay High alumnus currently in his first year as weightlifting coach, is proud of the effort Phillips and Eddings put in this year.

"These guys did awesome," Gandy said. "I think that our weightlifting program is designed to complement our other sports ... and we have to share our athletes. So the athletes that do weightlifting are mostly two- and three-sport kids, and it helps them on the field and court. This was a big deal for our program, school and community."

Phillips and Eddings said that for anyone interested in starting weightlifting, the most important thing to remember is to not be deterred the first couple of times even though it is hard. They said even though you will feel tired and weak you have to keep at it and build up your strength, because in the end, the payoff is worth it.