For a few dozen warriors, the summer was spent sharpening their blades, readying their armor, and envisioning the spoils of victory. For the first time ever in WV, a two-day powerlifting and strongman contest was held, with special prizes in store for the mightiest of the mighty that competed on both days. This siege of Morgantown was called the Summer Raid, and it was part II of the now legendary Summer of Maxes in this year’s West Virginia strongman series. The action was intense and the battles ferocious, and the warriors involved in this melee left everything on the field of battle.
On day 1, the powerlifters took center stage and put up some terrific lifts. A few highlights include Katie O’Connor hitting a PR squat of 315. Jared Garvin looked to be good for some big squats as well, but unfortunately a hip injury on his second attempt removed him from the contest – get well soon Mouse! The Rev himself Matt Holbert hit a bodyweight PR squat of 515, competing for the first time in many years at sub-230lbs bodyweight; the 220’s are in the Rev’s future. Rounding out the squats was Spencer Farley with a lightning fast 600 raw.
In the bench press, “Mr. USPA” Johnny Layne went 3 for 3, showing masterful attempt selection and very strong pressing. Austen Vickers, calm as a gentle summer breeze, showed impressive triceps power by close gripping some enormous presses. Austen, along with Holbert and O’Connor, was slated to compete on both days, but that didn’t stop him from giving it his all on day 1. Christy started off the deadlifts and finished her day strong with a successful third attempt at 205. This was Christy’s first meet, and she did a great job selecting attempts and executing her lifts. Amongst the men, Spencer Farley showed ridiculous power in the deadlift finishing with 725lbs.
Day 2 of the Summer Raid saw a strongman/woman contest that may well go down in history as one of the toughest ever held on WV soil. The Max Axle kicked things off, and the ladies impressed early with teen lightweight Gillian Paugh launching an 85lb lift like a pro. Gillian was our first ever teen female competitor, so a huge congratulations is in order for her for being a trail blazer and being brave enough to come all the way from Ohio to compete on WV soil. Well done Gillian!
The axle madness continued into the men’s classes with rookie strongman John Shaffer punching a 243 lift on the gigantic “demon axle”, and doing so on an injured calf. The open 231 class was real log jam; all three men tied at 273 on this extremely difficult axle, with Ken Hacker taking a scary spill on the clean at 303. Luckily ol’ Kenny is a country boy made of steel and grit and he was OK. At heavyweight, big Dan Evans (and I do mean big) hit a crisp 303, but 333 was just a bit much on the 2.3 inch diameter axle. Undisputed axle master Jake Reynolds took top honors in his first trip to the HW class here, as he conquered a 333lb lift, which is the biggest ever recorded on this type of axle in WV regardless of weight class.
Our second max event of the day was our 30ft Farmers Walk. The weight went up each round and competitors had 3 attempts to carry the heaviest weight possible down the course. Stacey Marlar edged Crystal Anney by ten pounds here with 155 per hand, with these two having a great battle all afternoon. The heat and fatigue from the day before likely contributed to Rev. Matt Holbert dropping his 265 farmers half way down the course, and a similar fate befell our perennial masters competitor Doug Prickett, also at 265. Speaking of masters, Michael Brooks impressed in the farmers with 220 per hand, and showed promise for more in the near future. At HW, Reynolds dropped at 280, while Josh Strassner motored down the course with the same weight, thinking he should have saved an attempt for 300. The biggest man in the competition, Dan Evans, took 300 for a nice stroll, tying Mark Carpenter for the biggest carry of the day.
Masters female competitor Angela Messer was the first to finish the course in the vehicle pull, completing the arm over arm style pull with a Subaru Outback in just over 32seconds. A very impressive performance. The pull of the day may have belonged to middleweight Katie O’Connor, as she displayed fast hands and big pulling power as she finished the course in under 25sec. In the men’s classes, we first switched to a Dodge Ram 1500, which Buddy Guthrie, Austen Vickers, and and John Shaffer made short work of. For open middles and heavies, a Ford F250 with a few thousand pounds of extra equipment was used, and people were even added for the big boy class. Mark Carpenter took the gold at MW, though unbelievably masters MW Doug Prickett was even faster. At HW, Strassner managed about half the course, while Evans and Reynolds both nearly finished it.
The fourth event of the day was undoubtedly the most brutal. Competitor after competitor lied on the pavement writhing in pain and succumbing to exhaustion after the event. The medley consisted of a keg carry, a sandbag carry, another keg carry, and then the worst part, a giant chain drag. Gillian Paugh recovered well after an early drop with the keg, and finished the whole thing in under a minute. Crystal Anney slipped ahead of Stacey Marlar by about 3seconds here, showing fantastic strength in the carries. Buddy Guthrie was the only male competitor to finish his heat in under a minute, and many of them didn’t finish at all. Holbert, Pricket, and Strassner were all shut down by the giant chain drag, and reigning MW state champ Kenny Hacker barely finished in time clocking in at 1min 28sec – that’s almost 90sec of continuous all-out effort with extremely heavy and awkward implements! The strain and exhaustion of the event completely decimated Jake Reynolds, who was barely able to move for 10minutes after finishing the course. Reynolds admitted to me later that this was the first time he actually vomited at a contest. I have to admit I was proud to hear that it happened during one of our infamous WV death medleys haha!
In our stone series, the “Stones of the North”, 11 of our 16 competitors failed to complete the course. It was an incredibly difficult finale to a day full of rugged, brutal events. Competitors had to press a stone (or other implement) first, then load 3 atlas stones to a platform, and finally finish with another stone press. In a very rare instance in WV, tacky was legal for this event, but it came with a price. Since there were presses involved, competitors using tacky had to deal with their shirts being pulled by the sticky goo and they tried to get into position to press, and those with beards had even more serious issues. Additionally, with these events being contested outside, debris was an issue as it stuck to the stones and brushing them off only did so much to help with that. The bottom line was, no amount of sticky goo was going to help these competitors if they weren’t stone experts to begin with.
Many of our ladies struggled with the opening press. After 4 excruciating events, there just wasn’t much left in the gas tank for many of these warriors, male or female. O’Connor made it the furthest of any female, finishing the press, and the first two stone loads before being stumped by the 195lb boulder. Angela Messer aggravated a shoulder issue on the pressing portion, but seemed OK later – best wishes healing that up! Austen Vickers and John Shaffer both finished the course in the HW novice division, but it was Vickers that did it the fastest, finishing an impressive weekend of performances with a big win over a tough opponent. State Champ Kenny Hacker was the first to make the course look somewhat pedestrian, but then Ohio’s Mark Carpenter absolutely annihilated the course a full 8seconds faster. Mark put a stamp on his divisional win with the performance. The new “tacky stones” that live outside at Viking Performance Training are captained by a huge 360lb monster stone, which got its first taste of air time when the 6’5” 400lb Dan Evans heaved it up to the platform. This was a huge lift by a huge man, and one that drew plenty of praise.
Final standings were as follows:
1st Gillian Paugh
Masters LWW –
1st Angela Messer
2nd Stacey Marlar
1st Crystal Anney
1st Katie O’Connor
MW (175’s) -
1st Buddy Guthrie
HW Nov –
2nd John Shaffer
1st Austen Vikcers
HW Nov Masters –
1st Michael Brooks
MW Masters –
1st Doug Prickett
MW (231) –
3rd Rev. Matt Holbert
2nd Kenny Hacker
1st Mark Carpenter
HW (232+) –
3rd Josh Strassner
2nd Dan Evans
1st (via countback) Jake Reynolds
Special shout outs:
• Tyler Cosner, Val Walker, Calvin Moore, Colleen Speaker, Micki Pauley and everyone else that helped set up, clean up, and keep this event rolling.
• Dan Ryan Builders, Fox’s Pizza, and our sponsors that made this possible.
• Jay Handley for coming up with great ideas for this meet.
• Mark Carpenter and Jake Reynolds for competing up a class beyond their norm, and showing the toughness and determination to still pull off the wins.
The raid has ended for this summer, and the battles were legendary. Great treasures were brought home by many, and the pride of surviving two full days of war is now held by 3. We now move forward to our summer charity event “Reppin for William” on 8/15 where we will be benching and deadlifting for reps in support of a little guy that needs our help. After that we finish our Summer of Maxes on 9/26 with the max log event at our annual strongman homecoming, “The Strongest Man in the Forest”. We have Mas wrestling dates to be announced soon (very soon), and in the fall we have our annual Halloween strongman bash on Sunday 11/1 – costumes required! Finally, on December 12th we continue our tradition of helping others when we host our USPA Power for a Purpose powerlifting event to support Stepping Stones in Morgantown, WV.
Congrats to all of our competitors, and I’ll see you Saturday at “Reppin for William”!
-Paul Mouser, NAS WV State Chairman