There’s no room for goofing around or playing when outside in the hot weather. But weightlifters from several schools in the Northern Neck proved otherwise in a friendly competition to open the summer.
Over 40 viewers braved the heat on June 5 watching 28 student athletes from Essex, Colonial Beach, King William and Washington & Lee High Schools compete in the fourth annual strongman competition in Westmoreland County. Sponsored by the National Guard, the athletic department at W&L hosted the popular event that high school coaches like Antron Yates praised.
“It’s team building,” Yates said. “The district won’t be won here, a playoff game won’t be won here, and so everybody is just rooting for everyone.”
King William took the team award followed in order by Essex, Colonial Beach and W&L. King William Track & Field Coach Howard Hill said what led to his team learning of the competition was by a member of the Essex team informing them of the event. With the changes to the Virginia High School League being allowed to practice all year round, Hill said this is a great outlet for students in the offseason.
“This event really enticed our kids and I know they’re going to go and tell their friends about it when they see the awards they won,” Hill said. “This was just a day of having a good time, working hard and seeing where everybody is in the offseason.”
Hill said he appreciated the invitation by the National Guard and W&L for hosting it.
From friendly nicknames to positive cheers, the weightlifters didn’t resemble the same characteristics as previously seen on the football field. Instead they laughed and encouraged one another throughout the afternoon.
Essex football coach John Fulks had only three eighth graders in the competition last year, but said it left a huge impact on them. He was really impressed to see three other local football programs in attendance.
“All four of these schools have reputable football programs and I’d like to get more involved,” Fulks said. “It’s free of charge, a really fun and positive experience to get the kids motivated to workout for the summer, something to shoot for next year and be proud of for themselves.”
The competition originally began as an invitation at Colonial Beach High School with only two schools participating. Sgt. First Class Robert Greene has since that time continued the program and watched it’s expansion.
“It’s about sportsmanship and that’s what we want,” Greene said. “This motivates them to get in the weightroom and we’re getting more and more kids.”
Essex’s Deiondre Dancy, who graduated this year and attended his second competition, was a standout high school football player for the Trojans and headache for opponents. Coaches like Scott Foster, of Colonial Beach, said jokingly to him that he was happy to see him leaving, but it was good to Dancy and others enjoying themselves at W&L last week.
“It was a good event to kick start football and get everybody to know each other,” Foster said. “All the kids did good.”
Rescheduled twice due to conflicts, the event was divided into four weight classes—cruiserweight (under 135 pounds), lightweight (135-175 lbs.), middleweight (175-215 lbs.) and heavyweight (over 215 lbs.)—to determine who is this year’s strongest. Participants competed in four events including the bench press, crucifix hold, harnessed truck pull and a three event medley: tire flip, farmers carry and hand over hand sled pull.
In the cruiser weight contest, King William’s Joseph Mitchell placed first. Essex’s Clifton Bundy followed him with second and in third was King William’s David Church.
W&L’s Linwood Newman won the lightweight contest and was joined by Colonial Beach’s Carter Foster in second and Essex’s Steve Payne Jr. and W&L’s Morian Pollard in fourth.
Tyler Gilbertson, of King William, took first out of the middleweight group. Colonial Beach’s Jason Vickery took second, King William’s Brandon Jackson with third and Shawn Chandler with fourth.
Essex’s Deiondre Dancy capped off the day taking first in the heavyweight contest. Jordon Payne brought in second for Essex, followed by King William’s Bart Stone with third and Colonial Beach’s Aaron Fisher with fourth.