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Blood, sweat, tears and iron

By Joshua Alexander
On March 19, 2017

Photo courtesy of Woody Myers 

Last Thursday, March 9, together with the sponsorship of Wing Shack, UNC’s Campus Recreation Program and Graduate Student Association successfully presented a “Strong Bear Powerlifting Competition,” hosted in the Campus Recreation Center. Student volunteers, trainers, staff members and representatives from both Graduate Students Association and Campus Recreation Center all jointly participated in organizing this first time event.

Students from diverse backgrounds, majors, and areas of interests partook in this competition, open free of cost to all CRC members. Coming together, all athletes stepped up onto the new lifting platforms, testing their maximum strength in events such as deadlift, squats and bench presses. Each contestant received three chances to best their previous attempt. The score was ultimately determined based on the weight, sex and individual strength of each competitor.

Coming in first place overall for male category was senior chemistry major Ben Whaley. Despite deadlifting a remarkable 505 pounds, with a total of 1095 pounds lifted altogether, Whaley seemed almost utterly surprised with his victory. 

“I didn’t expect to win,” Whaley said. “I honestly thought others would beat me.” Whaley, is eager to continue furthering his education by entering the graduate program shortly. He had trained in powerlifting for nearly four years prior to this event and is currently instructing lessons at the climbing wall and equipment center at UNC.

Coming in at second place was Andrew Hess, lifting a total of 920 pounds, and in third place, Josh LeBlanc at 995 pounds. Kaelen Gay also lifted the heaviest squat at 475 pounds and the heaviest deadlift, weighing 535 pounds. The heaviest bench press of the night was by Hayden Cortez, who lifted a total of 325 pounds.

For female contestants, in first came Amanda Yanes Garcia, with a total of 510 pounds lifted altogether; second place was Tori Brown at 470 pounds; and in third place, Alicia Sepulveda with 430 pounds. Garcia also had the strongest deadlift, at 205 pounds, and the heaviest bench-press, at 105 pounds. The heaviest squat lifted that night was also by Brown at 220 pounds.

All contestants, both male and female alike, were scored by the total amount of weight lifted, among all three events, and divided by the athlete’s total body weight. This was in order to determine the most accurate amount of pounds lifted per pound of athlete body weight, getting the fairest result.

This event however did more than just provide students an opportunity for fun and competitive recreation. According to Jade Dworkin, coordinator of the fitness and wellness program at UNC, the Strong Bear competition also served a purpose, mostly as a chance for the program to showcase their new Olympic lifting platforms and encourage safe and proper fitness techniques. 

“We really wanted to diversify our recreational center with this new lifting equipment and make it more inclusive for all those wishing to train in our gym," Dworkin said, 

Dworkin, who oversaw and organized this competition alongside GSA, stressed also the importance of educating proper weightlifting techniques. “Our goal,” continued Dworkin, “is to not only showcase and present our new equipment but to also teach and model safe, effective and properly controlled lifting techniques through this event.” 

Outside of hosting the competition, Dworkin manages a group of fitness instructors, personal trainers, massage therapists and student program assistants. She also instructs both personal and group training in exercise and nutrition.

GSA Director David Shimokawa also had much to say regarding the meaning of this competition, stressing similar notions as Dworkin. While helping the recreational program present their new equipment, Shimokawa, whose main responsibility as GSA Director is distributing grant money for research and academic conferences to students, also desires to exemplify healthy diet and exercise through this event. 

“Some of our competitors played sports when they were undergraduates or in high school,” Shimokawa said. "we’re hoping that events like this allow UNC students to set goals for their personal fitness while providing them with the recognition that they used to receive on the athletic field.”

Most importantly however, GSA and Shimokawa’s intent and desire was to help build a stronger, more unified academic community through Thursday’s competition. 

“A number of the volunteer judges and spotters at this event, are UNC graduate students. I think it’s great that our graduate students are using their knowledge to build better relationships with the undergraduate population outside of the classroom.” Shimokawa said.

Shimokawa, throughout the event, remained a positive and encouraging moderator, announcing each contestant by name, weight attempted and event chosen. 

“Since many of our graduate students are going to become professors in higher education, the Graduate Student Association is always looking for new ways to create mentorship opportunities for them,” he said. 

Thursday’s competition attempted to do just that.

The Campus Recreational Center offers everyone, including students, faculty, and non-members alike a reasonably priced and high quality professional service uniquely available to UNC. Their nationally certified staff offers numerous recreational activities for anyone to partake in, including weightlifting, cardio, kickboxing, Zumba, Rise and Shine yoga, yin and yang meditation, hip-hop jazz fusion and much more. Personal training is also free for the first initial thirty minutes for consultation. 

For the next two months, free Olympic lifting clinics will also be available to students who are interested in learning how to improve their lifting skills for one hour by a certified personal trainer. If interested in signing up for these events, it is recommended to do quickly, due to the limited number of spots. The dates for these are as follows: March 24 from 4:00 to 5:00 pm; April 4 from 7 to 8 p.m., and April 21 from 4 to 5 p.m.

For more information concerning these events or about the weightlifting competition in general, please contact Jade Dworkin at [email protected] or David Shimokawa, [email protected]

[email protected]

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