With music pumping through the air, the bleachers strewn with enthusiastic spectators and a couple of world-champion discoveries to its credit, it was hard to believe Wednesday night at Nikiski High School that the Speed and Strength Training Competition just started in the spring of 2012.
“They should have had this since the beginning of time,” said Nikiski senior Dylan Broussard, who won the 18-minute torture fest of various lifts known as Fight Gone Bad. “It teaches you how to grow through pain and feel good about yourself.
“If you can do this, you can do any sport because it teaches you to train and get in shape.”
Speed and Strength Training is a physical education curriculum used at the central Kenai Peninsula’s three high schools — Soldotna, Kenai Central and Nikiski.
In the spring of 2012, a strength competition was held to showcase the work of the students.
Since that first competition, there has been a fall speed and agility competition and a spring strength competition, making Wednesday’s event the ninth overall.
SoHi coach Eric Pomerleau and Kenai Central coach Jeff Baker have been with SST since the beginning.
“The evolution is incredible,” Baker said. “When we started this, it was a learning process. We didn’t know what we were doing.
“We’ve really cleaned up a lot of the movements and made it a lot safer.”
As usual, Wednesday saw its share of record-breaking performances, with three records broken and one tied. But Pomerleau said meets with a lot of broken records are set to become less of a broken record.
“Now we have a freak with every single record,” Pomerleau said. “When you break a record, it’ll mean something.”
The program also has been buoyed by the buy-in of coaches and athletes due to all-around performance increases.
While fostering success in other sports — Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski were all in state-championship football games in the fall — SST has also spawned strength stars.
Both Cipriana Castellano, a Kenai senior, and Robin Johnson, a SoHi junior, won International Powerlifting Federation RAW Classics Powerlifting World Championships last summer.
Castellano, who won the junior-senior squat and set a record of 190 pounds in the junior-senior clean Wednesday, is close to getting into the Northern Michigan University Olympic Training Site weightlifting program under coach Vance Newgard.
“NMU sent me a letter in the mail,” Castellano said. “I thought it was junk mail so I almost threw it out. It was a hand-typed letter from the lifting coach inviting me to apply.”
Castellano said she has been accepted athletically, and is waiting to hear if she is accepted academically.
She leaves Kenai Central with SST records in freshman-sophomore and junior-senior squat, freshman-sophomore and junior-senior clean, and junior-senior snatch.
All the other record breakers Wednesday jumped into the record books for the first time.
SoHi’s Michael Reutov put the freshman-sophomore boys snatch record at 175 pounds and Kenai’s Rykker Riddall put the freshman-sophomore boys clean record at 260 pounds.
SoHi’s Austin Schrader and Nikiski’s Ruben Sepeda also tied Jace Baker’s 2015 snatch record of 205 pounds.
Riddall, a sophomore, broke the freshman-sophomore clean record of his brother, 2015 Nikiski graduate Christian Riddall.
“I told (my brother) I was thinking about breaking his old record and he sort of said, ‘I dare you,’” Riddall said.
The clean involves bringing the bar from the floor to shoulders, dropping to a squat, then standing up straight.
With his father, Ted, hollering at him, Rykker struggled up in asymmetric akimbo but held on to the lift.
“I was probably another two seconds away from dropping out of it,” he said.
While Schrader and Sepeda now share the snatch record, the two are leagues apart in another category — weight.
While powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting contests divide competitors up according to weight, SST’s only division is based on age.
That left Schrader, a 180-pound junior, and Sepeda, a 320-pound senior, in the same category.
Amazingly, Schrader won the squat at 450 pounds, just 5 pounds behind the 2015 record of SoHi’s Adam O’Guinn.
“He was pretty impressive,” Sepeda said of Schrader. “What he did is phenomenal for his size.”
Schrader even surprised himself a bit with the 450-pound squat. He was aiming for that at the Alaska state powerlifting championship on April 30 in Anchorage, but now will have to set his sights higher.
In the snatch, which involves pulling the bar off the floor to overhead, both Schrader and Sepeda missed opportunities to improve on Baker’s 205.
Sepeda, who also will compete at the state meet, nearly had 220 pounds.
“This emotion, I was really feeling it,” Sepeda said. “Everybody in here was really supporting me.”
Schrader said he also feeds off the competition.
“I think it’s really cool that the peninsula schools get together and do this,” he said. “I wish more schools, schools not on the peninsula, did it with us.”
The last event of the night is the infamous Fight Gone Bad. Kenai junior Julianne Wilson and Nikiski senior Broussard were the overall winners with 436 and 558 reps, respectively.
The event involves five stations — box jump, kettlebell swing (30 pounds for girls, 40 for boys), 35/45-pound push press, 20/30-pound ball slam and wall balls.
Competitors spend a minute at each station before moving to the next, taking a minute break after wall balls and moving through each station three times.
Wilson is undefeated at the event, having taken the freshman-sophomore title twice. Broussard won the freshman-sophomore event as a sophomore and finished second in junior-senior last year.
Both obviously have their share of grit.
“I refuse to quit,” Broussard said. “I was raised in a competitive family my whole life so I refused to quit.”
But both also have a definite strategy, rather than just throwing their body into the maw of vicious exercise and hoping they come out the other side a winner.
“I give myself a break,” Wilson said. “I don’t try and get to every station quickly. That lets me pace myself.”
Broussard also said he is very picky about spending his energy.
For instance, the kettlebell swing is known as an exercise with an incredibly high rate of calorie burn per rep. So Broussard will spend his calories getting more reps on the box jump and push press, and be relatively judicious about burning calories on the swing.
“Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses,” Broussard said. “I try to use more of my energy on the strengths and just sustain on the other stations.”
Speed and Strength Training results
at Nikiski High School
Junior-senior boys — 1. Austin Schrader, Soldotna, 450 pounds; 2. Jonathan Delgado, Kenai, 435; 3. Andrew Welborn, Kenai, 405; 4. Ruben Sepeda, Nikiski, 375; 5. Bryce Martin, Soldotna, 375; 6. Jakob Schmidt, Nikiski, 345.
Junior-senior girls — 1. Cipriana Castellano, Kenai, 305; 2. Annie Quinn, Soldotna, 225; 3. Amy Porter, Nikiski, 215.
Freshman-sophomore boys — 1. Nick Braswell, Nikiski, 320; 2. Tyrone McEnerney, Soldotna, 325; 3 (tie). Rykker Riddall, Kenai, Wendell Tuisaula, Soldotna, 315; 5. Michael Reutov, Soldotna, 295.
Freshman-sophomore girls — 1. Catherine Turner, Soldotna, 225; 2. Shaylynn Zener, Soldotna, 210; 3. Jamie Yerkes, Nikiski, 150.
Junior-senior boys — 1. Draiden McMinn, Kenai, 270; 2. Jonathan Delgado, Kenai, 250; 3. Levi Hensley, Soldotna, 240; 4. Emanual Van Hout, Soldotna, 230; 5. Dylan Broussard, Nikiski, 200.
Junior-senior girls — 1. Cipriana Castellano, Kenai, 190; 2. Emily Werner, Soldotna, 160; 3. Annie Quinn, Soldotna, 155; 4. Arianna Parrish, Nikiski, 150; 5. Alexis Baker, Kenai, 135; 6. Amy Porter, Nikiski, 125.
Freshman-sophomore boys — 1. Rykker Riddall, Kenai, 260; 2. Tyrone McEnerney, Kenai, 230; 3. Wendell Tuisaula, Soldotna, 220; 4. Trent Robinson, Soldotna, 215; 5. Nick Braswell, Nikiski, 200; 6. Jace Kornstad, Nikiski, 190.
Freshman-sophomore girls — 1. Verity Feltman, Nikiski, 135; 2 (tie). Annebelle Schneiders, Kenai, Shaylynn Zener, Soldotna, 120; 4. Trinity Griffin, Soldotna, 115; 5. Deidra Lamping, Nikiski, 105; 6. Alyssa Stanton, Kenai, 100.
Junior-senior boys — 1 (tie). Austin Schrader, Soldotna, Ruben Sepeda, Nikiski, 205; 3. Connor Johnson, Kenai, 180; 4. Draiden McMinn, Kenai, 165; 5. Ethan Brown, Soldotna, 155; 6. Dakota Hupp, Nikiski, 145.
Junior-senior girls — 1. Ireland Gillies, Kenai, 110; 2 (tie). Alexis Baker, Kenai, Arianna Parrish, Nikiski, 95; 4. Taylor Earll, Soldotna, 85.
Freshman-sophomore boys — 1. Michael Reutov, Soldotna, 175; 2. Dawson Baker, Kenai, 145; 3. Bechler Metcalf, Soldotna, 115.
Freshman-sophomore girls — 1. Rebecca Van Hout, Soldotna, 90; 2. Annebelle Schneiders, Kenai, 75; 3 (tie). Catherine Turner, Soldotna, Verity Feltman, Nikiski, 70.
Fight Gone Bad
Junior-senior boys — 1. Dylan Broussard, Nikiski, 558 reps; 2. Abraham Van Hout, Soldotna, 497; 3. Levi Hensley, Soldotna, 438; 4. Toby Randall, Kenai, 436; 5. Raymon Machen-Gray, Kenai, 363; 6. Matthew Hollinger, Nikiski, 332.
Junior-senior girls — 1. Julianne Wilson, Kenai, 436; 2. Ireland Gillies, Kenai, 413; 3. Emily Werner, Soldotna, 403; 4. Abby Kruse, Soldotna, 335; 5. Brianna Vollertsen, Nikiski, 296; 6. Ayla Pitt, Nikiski, 273.
Freshman-sophomore boys — 1. Jace Kornstad, Nikiski, 461; 2. Braden Olsen, Kenai, 460; 3. Ben Pollard, Kenai, 444; 4. Bechler Metcalf, Soldotna, 410; 5. Trenton Robinson, Soldotna, 342; 6. Dylan O’Brien, Nikiski, 260.