Facing a crossroad

Senior Kellen Marini faces a crossroads as the future approaches

Senior Kellen Marini prepares to lift 200+ lbs at the FHSAA District Championships at Lake Brantley on Jan 12.

photo by Kelly Marini

Senior Kellen Marini prepares to lift 200+ lbs at the FHSAA District Championships at Lake Brantley on Jan 12.

Victoria Tomeo, Lifestyles Editor

She’s at the state championships. She closes her eyes and hears the crowd cheering her on and thinks of how the principal will be saying her name over the intercom for the entire school to celebrate. She opens her eyes and suddenly, it’s her turn to lift 200+ lbs. It’s going well until her foot slips out from underneath her. It’s the scariest moment of her entire career. What does she do? She takes a breath and does what any athlete would do: she does it again and succeeds.

Concentrating on graduating in May, attending weightlifting and cheerleading practice, maintaining a social life and a regular sleep schedule, senior Kellen Marini barely has time for anything else, and that’s how she wants it.

“I don’t think I could handle a schedule that was any less busy than what I have now,” Marini said. “I think I would get so bored.”

Marini has been cheerleading since elementary school but she knew she wanted to be a weightlifter when she in eighth grade and at her older brother’s weightlifting meet at Lake Brantley. The first time Marini knew she wanted to be a weightlifter, she was in eight grade and at her brother’s own weightlifting meet at Lake Brantley. According to her mother, the names on the wall of girls who had made weightlifting records inspired her to one day make it up there.

“She told me in that moment ‘I’m gonna be up there one day’ and I said ‘Okay I believe you’,” mother Kelly Marini said.

Before the weightlifting and cheerleading success, Marini played a variety of sports; from volleyball to track and cross country to gymnastics. When she played on an all-boys flag football team as a running back, Marini had the most touchdowns and rushing yards in the league.

Marini started training for weightlifting in freshman year and worked in between, and sometimes during, cheerleading seasons. She fell in love with both sports and got two state titles for cheerleading and one for weightlifting. According to her mother, she wasn’t always this strong.

“When Kellen was really little—at least a few days old—I was holding her on the couch one day and I was in a conversation with her grandmother when she suddenly just stopped breathing,” Kelly Marini said. “She turned completely blue.”

Her dad and her brother were out of the house at the time so her mother and grandmother had to perform CPR while waiting for the ambulance. Once she was resuscitated and taken to the ER, doctors diagnosed Marini with sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea, which affects over 40 million people per year, causes a person to randomly stop breathing when asleep. Since Marini was an infant, she had to sleep next to her parents’ bed with a heart monitor that triggered an alarm if her breathing stopped. This lasted for the first year of her life.

“She went from being not the strongest child to being the strongest child in the state of Florida, which is an interesting twist on her story,” Kelly Marini said.

Marini does not remember the disorder at all and she has kept a busy schedule and a bright outlook on the future. However, she never thought she would win a state title for anything.     Her first state title was as a sophomore in 2014. On a cheer team of mostly seniors, she looked up to her older teammates.

“That year really shaped me as an athlete because I learned so much from [the seniors on the team],” Marini said.

Another state title was in 2015 when, according to Marini, the team was more a family, and even though they worked just as hard as the team from the previous year, they had more fun doing it. To end her high school athletic career on a high note, Marini got the state title for weightlifting in February of this year.

“Once I went to states for something that I worked all four years on, all of that work finally paid off,” Marini said. “All of the things I went through personally suddenly meant something more because that was me!”

With college around the corner, however, the big question for a big-time high school athlete is: will the sport, and especially the success, continue into college? For Marini, this question cannot be answered easily.

She was originally going to go to Alabama for college but going to Florida State University would allow her to do cheer and weightlifting at the same time instead of picking just one. FSU hosts tryouts, called “clinics,” that, according to Marini, are a way to “get your name out there” and “impress the big-wigs.” She has attended several, but the university has given her a pass on the first day of training due to her superiority at the clinics.

Her first FSU training is on May 18 and she won’t know if she made the cheerleading team until May 21, the day before graduation.

Not only is she shooting for FSU and their cheer team, but she is also looking to compete in the Youth Nationals in Atlanta, GA for weightlifting in the summer. With the total weight she holds now, she would have gotten fourth in the competition from previous years, making her confident that she is going to make it.

“The only things that’s going to throw me a curveball [in college] is nursing because I still want to do that,” Marini said. “But I love competing—it’s what keeps me going.”