Participants cheer each other on at Strongest Man at the Y event
By Steve Huffman
Rod Graham stands 6 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 290 pounds.
Big darn fellow.
Even though he’s 43, Graham possesses one of those bodies that Charles Atlas used to promise in those comic book ads of yesteryear.
But on Saturday, Graham admitted he was as nervous as a 15-year-old on his first date.
“I’ve never done anything competitively like this,” he said, assessing his competition as he spoke. “Some of these guys, they’ve got me by 20 years.”
Graham was one of 15 who competed Saturday in the Strongest Man at the Y Contest, an event held behind the Hurley Family YMCA on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
Participants pulled a full-size bus from a dead stop, flipped a 741-pound tire for 60 feet, carried two 120-pound dumbbells 200 feet, participated in a dead lift with weights ranging from 225 to 325 pounds and ran a 90-yard shuttle while carrying boat batteries, sand bags and an anvil.
Sounds like fun, huh?
All this took place, bear in mind, under a blistering summer sun.
Kenny Seagle, the YMCA’s adult sports director, said he decided to organize the competition after watching similar events on television.
“I got to thinking, ‘That wouldn’t be that difficult,’ ” Seagle said of staging the games.
He said the only thing he had to purchase were harnesses that participants wore to pull the bus. The other items were already owned by the YMCA or paid for by sponsors.
Several hundred people ó paying a whopping $1 apiece ó turned out to watch the competition. Coupled with the sale of refreshments, Seagle said the event turned a nifty profit of a couple of hundred dollars or so.
The competition was divided into three weight classifications ó under 200 pounds, 201 to 275 pounds and over 275 pounds. Competitors were judged based on how quickly they completed the aforementioned tasks and how many repetitions they were able to move weights in the dead-lift competition.
Winners in each class received $250 while those who finished second received $50 gift cards.
There was a friendly air of competition about it all, but participants cheered loud and long for one another, reminiscent of the encouragement weightlifters give each other as they work out there at the Y.
“The thing I like about it,” said Graham, that big 40-something-year-old who competed, “is that it’s a Christian thing. We’re all friends, we’re all pulling for one another.”
Seagle said he noticed much the same.
“It’s amazing to see these guys helping each other,” he said.
Practices were held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights last week in order to give competitors the opportunity to practice athletic endeavors they might otherwise never have had the opportunity to muster.
When, for example, was the last time you flipped a 741-pound tire or single-handily pulled a bus?
Daniel Overcash won the over-275-pound weight class, in the process pulling the bus 60 feet in 21.15 seconds and flipping the 741-pound tire 60 feet in 40.9 seconds.
Overcash, 19, graduated from North Rowan High School in 2008 and is trying to make the football team at East Carolina University as a walk-on. His 6-foot-2 frame carries a svelte 320 pounds.
“The tire’s the hardest,” Overcash said of the events included in Saturday’s competition. “It’s hard to get a grip on it.”
But he said that in something of a misery-loves-company atmosphere, competitors were committed to one another.
“Everybody’s tried helping each other,” Overcash said. “We’re not looking to get an unfair advantage over one another.”
Seagle said he plans to make the competition an annual one, in the future probably including a classification for strong guys under 180 pounds. He said he also planned to move the competition to the spring when the heat wouldn’t be as big a factor.Winners in Saturday’s Strongest Man at the Y Contest were:
– Under 200 pounds: First, Dane Corriher; second, Brian Walker.
– 201-to-275-pound division: First, Jonathan Creason; second, Brett Dagenhart.
– Over 275 pounds: First, Daniel Overcash; second, Rod Graham.