Washington Ironman goes Back to the Future
Text and Photos by Mark Mason
As the last notes of guest poser Brandon Curry's music faded into history one could only marvel at the full circle that the Washington Ironman had traversed. It has been nearly a decade since Brad and Elaine Craig held their all-natural bodybuilding, fitness and figure contest at the Everett Civic Auditorium. In those ten years the depth and breadth of the Ironman has grown by epic proportions.
The 2008 Ironman boasted one hundred and twenty-seven competitors. That is one hundred and twenty-seven bodies, not trumped up numbers, the product of dozens of crossover competitors. As a result of the true numbers, the show flowed smoothly and effortlessly.
Add two thousand fans, the irrepressible Kim "Kong" Farrison as MC along with super-star guest posers Tanji Johnson, Peter "The Punisher" Putnam and the new Black Prince, Brandon Curry and you have yourself a physique extravaganza extraordinaire.
Women's Figure Fifty women in five classes brought the packed house alive and tested the strength of the Civic Auditorium's very foundation. Short class winner, Kristina Whitehall's conditioning and stage presentation as well as her dynamite smile gave her the edge over more seasoned competitors like the raven-tressed Audrey Penza and the leggy Kiana Phil-Lewis.
In the medium short class a single point separated winner Heather Lindell and 2007 Ironman masters winner, Heidi Hansen-Carlin. Hansen-Carlin took the near miss with her usual grace and charm. Once again showing the quality of competitors third place Carole Castillo edged out fourth place Jacey Bourne by three points.
Jade Coffman of Team Physique ventured up from Vancouver USA to win the medium class. Coffman left second place for Ti Wickland and third place for Diana Gere.
The largest class of the night was the tall class. Fourteen ladies vied for top honors. Veteran competitor Casey Tuttle's training with Kimberly Agnew paid off big. The Montanan secured the win over newbie Andrea Canonge. Canonage was in great shape and presented well. Third place went to Tina Tricoli out of Puyallup's Bodylogic.
The masters figure class was loaded with some of the Northwest's best talent. Winner Julie Barnett finally got her due. Barnett has been a constant in competitions throughout the region for the past several years. Each time she returns she has improved her body, conditioning or presentation. 2008 at the Everett Civic her perseverance paid off by scoring a resounding victory. Second place went to Mary Napolizano and third to Jennifer Knox.
The figure overall was about as exciting as the law would allow. As masters winner Barnett lined up next to Tuttle, Coffman, Lindell, and Whitehall head judge Rick Kasten took the ladies through a dozen minutes of fierce quarter turns. Complete pandemonium was imminent as the scores were tallied. After a three-way split decision MC Farrison declared Heather Lindell of Anchorage, Alaska the Ironman figure champion for 2008.
As fitness competitor numbers decline around the country, here in the Northwest, fitness is on the upsurge. Most likely this unique trend is due to the support and inspiration of the bevy of fitness pros in the area. Michele Mayberry, Tami Ough, Sandy Grant, and the newest IFBB pro, Rose Hendricks, continue to wave the banner for the fitness renaissance. Without a doubt the heart and soul of the revival is the first lady of fitness, Tanji Johnson.
Fresh from her fifth place finish at the Olympia, Johnson was on hand to flaunt what she does best. Her ninja routine was filled with strength moves, hip-hop dance and highflying gymnastics. People talk of TJ's come back. There is no comeback. Tanji Johnson has never left and she is just as viable as she has ever been.
Not only were fitness competitor numbers up but the competition was strong. Eventual winner Genie Markwell had her hands full. Rival Kristina Lum pushed Markwell each step of the way. Markwell won both the one and two-piece rounds but it was Carole Castillo passing both Lum and Markwell to win the routine round. It ended Markwell, Lum, and Castillo with Janice Zander fourth and Emily Arger fifth.
The novice men classes featured some of the best posing of the show. Lightweight winner and hometown boy, Eric Sailer, swept through the class taking all but one of the first place votes. Second place Brian Bear was a handful of points ahead of third place, Brenton Moore.
Winner of the novice middleweights, Ernesto Rios, had one of the most solid physiques of the show. Rios came out fast and never looked back. Second place Cory Patterson is another contestant whose posing belied his experience. Third place from Mill Creek Gold's Gym went to poser extraordinaire Jon Blodgett.
Novice heavyweight Tyler Leenknecht stood tall and took home first. Leenknecht possessed a well-muscled upper body and with continued improvement to his legs he will become a formable open competitor. Derek Hess and Ronnie Sullivan rounded up the class second and third respectively.
The novice women's bodybuilding class was swept by Janet Guenther protege Anastasiya Chumova. Not only was Chumova's conditioning dead on by her posing routine was punctuated with subtleties that help put her far ahead of her competition. Second in the novice women class went to newcomer Jacqueline Siochi. Third place went to Nancy Pooler.
If the future of men's bodybuilding can be predicted from the junior division the forecast looks bright indeed. Seven young men, twenty and under, swaggered across the stage showing off physiques that appeared beyond their age.
The battle for first place was between Paul Tomko and Lueth Alexander. Tomko the shorter of the two possessed thick muscle density as well as phenomenal conditioning. Alexander's posing routine was perfectly paced and he looked as if he owned the stage. Another junior with a bright competitive future was the Ironman himself, Brandon Craig. Standing at least six foot five Craig displayed impressive upper body musculature. With time and training he will turn out to be a threat in the novice and open classes. The class placings went Tomko, Alexander, and Craig.
Masters women winner, Linda Ham, hit the stage like a runaway train. Her spirited posing routine was well received. Ham received another first place award in the Mixed Pairs division, which she shared with her son, overall novice winner, Eric Sailer. Seattleite Susan Elliot won the battle for second place with Canuck Eden Davidson placing third.
In the men over forty division DynOmite Daniel Rutherford was back after a disappointing near miss in the 07 Ironman. Rutherford's eclectic "Will Pose For Food" routine wore perfectly in the midst of the present financial crisis. If anyone could give Rutherford a challenge it was Rob Barnett. Barnett was at the best shape of his bodybuilding career. Although smaller then Rutherford his conditioning was superior. Good enough in fact to garner three first place votes. Rounding up third place was the "Huggy Bear" of bodybuilding, Jerome Williams.
In the masters men over fifty all the usual suspect showed up in full force and ready to rumble. Plus one, Perry Plush. Plush, sporting a Dorian Yates coiffure, posed his way to victory over the likes of second place Corky Gainsford and third place Charlie Brown. Both Gainsford and Brown are crowd favorites and pride themselves with coming up with outlandish posing routines. Both out did themselves this year.
In the men over sixty it was the Silver Stud, Walt Radke, one upping the senior statesman of the show, seventy-two year old Robert Mussehl. Radke, who is seventy, has his eyes on the grandmasters title at the 2009 Masters Nationals.
Open Women Bodybuilding
To say that heavyweight winner and overall champion Lilli Ewing dominated the division is no slight to the other competitors. Back to Ewing in a moment. First, props must be given to lightweight winner Cindy Goodrich. Goodrich comes ready to compete in every local show and is rarely even opposed in her class. The fact that she continues to come back show after show to pose and pick up her first place trophy is a testimony to her love of her sport. That being said, I know Goodrich would welcome some competition.
Middleweight winner Jennifer Erickson, another competitor from Pete and Apple Grubbs' Construction Zone, really brought it to Everett. She was a delight to watch and the exuberance in which she accepted the first place trophy was thrilling to witness. Fellow CZ teammate Marni Alvarez place second and Zoe Lefrancois-Hansen took third.
It seems that the mantra of women's bodybuilding nowadays is "bringing femininity back". From what I witnessed at the Ms. Olympia contest the previous weekend that is nothing but lip service.
The truth is the future of women's bodybuilding lies with the likes of competitors like Cindy Goodrich, Jennifer Erickson and Lilli Ewing. Ewing possessed the perfect amount of muscle for her frame. Her lats tapered down to a small waist and the sweep in her legs was just the right size to accentuate her symmetry. Her conditioning was sharp and her skin clear and healthy.
Lilli Ewing is a worthy champion of the 2008 Ironman and hopefully she will be leading the march towards the new direction of women's bodybuilding.
Neo-classical poser Andrew Saguid's impressive routine and his sharp lines are why the judges gave him the unanimous victory in the open men's bantamweight. Robert Bauer and Diamond Dale Morishige rassled through prejudging and into the evening. It ended up Bauer over Morishige by a point.
In the lightweight class it was Jon Stockwell who pushed through to victory over veterans Tony Ruggiero and Shawn Ryan. But final placings don't tell the whole story. The prejudging scrap between Stockwell, Ruggiero and Ryan was one of the longest of the morning. Rick Kasten took the group through several rounds of comparisons before the results could be determined.
A three-point difference is all the separated middleweight winner Andrew Lindaas and second place "Montana" Jess Edens. The crowd response was so loud for third place winner Jacob Hall you would think he brought his own cheering section with him.
Light-heavyweight winner Paul Halalilo came back strong after taking a year off. The time served him well. He was thicker through the chest with better definition in his hamstrings and quads. Jonathan Gibson just squeaked under the heavyweight limit and was the only real test to Halalilo’s supremacy. Scott Hickman placed third to Gibson.
In the open men's heavyweight it was Pastor Ken Ralston all the way. In the past three years Ralston has not failed to show up in top condition and there are few men his size that can mount any serious challenge to his posing ability.
Kim Farrison called all five athletes to center stage. As Kasten took the lineup through both the symmetry round and muscularity rounds the house came alive with excitement. Shouts for favorite competitors nearly stifled Kasten's callouts. Halalilo received some strong competition from lightweight Jon Stockwell. At evenings end the overall title of Washington Ironman Overall Champion went to Paul Halalilo.
The team award went to the Construction Zone and the male best poser award went to Jon Blodget and the female to Jennifer Erickson.
The after show party was held around the corner at Alfy's Pizza. Pizzas were eaten by the dozens and beer drank by the pitcher as the competitiveness faded into the camaraderie that only amateur bodybuilding can inspire.