The athletes who were big winners at the recent Eastern High lift-a-thon were the Special Olympians.

The Eastern High would-be body builders and weight lifters bench-pressed weights from 70 to more than 300 pounds to match public pledges of money for each pound lifted. A total of $1,000 was raised for Special Olympics.

"I'm just doing it for the charity; I'm not interested in winning," said Anthony Banks, a 270-pound sophomore who will try football next fall.

"Since it is to help mentally retarded athletes, I think it is a good cause," said Melvin Boone, who pressed 265 pounds after gathering six pledges from his teachers at Eastern.

The idea behind the lift-a-thon was for student lifters to seek pledges for various amounts. If the pledge was 25 cents per pound and a student lifted 150 pounds, $37.50 would be given to Special Olympics.

To bench press, the students lay flat on their back, shoulders resting on a weight-lifting table. They attempted to bring the weight to their chest, gaining credit for a good lift if they could hoist the weight over the weight-support bar attached to the bench.

"This is the first time we tried this," said Edwin Jones, coordinator for the program. "It gives young people an opportunity to do public service work. It also gives us a chance to spread the word about conditioning and weight lifting."

If there was a star of the lift-a-thon, it was Carl Butler, a nose guard on the Ramblers football team. The 180-pound senior lifted 334 pounds, four pounds more than his previous best.

"It felt good to lift 334, but it would have felt better if I lifted 400," said Butler, who started body building as a sophomore."

Another big lifter was Joe Cherry, who eventually tried to match his personal-best of 295, but failed.

"It doesn't matter how much these kids can lift now," said Boone. "The important thing is that they like weight lifting and it will have a positive influence on them. They can use those same principles [of weight lifting] in life."

Female lifters Sherease Thomas and Jessica Wyant also participated in the lift-a-thon, and may become trend setters among female athletes at Eastern.

"We aren't doing it for the muscles," said Wyant, a member of the swim team. "We don't want to look like Carl [Butler]. We want to tone our muscles and stay in shape."