The name of the game is pushing yourself to the peak of your abilities, and a collection of student athletes from Kenai Central, Soldotna and Nikiski high schools succeeded greatly in doing that Thursday at Soldotna.
The Speed and Strength Training (SST) competition, held for a fourth consecutive year, is a curriculum instituted for the three schools that promotes fitness, strength and general well-being. It also pushes athletes to their max.
At the conclusion of the final event of the night, the infamous Fight Gone Bad, the gym floor was littered with the collapsed bodies of some of the best athletes on the Kenai Peninsula. Before the start of the grueling challenge, shouts of, “Come on, it’s only 18 minutes of your life!” could be heard, but just 18 minutes later, complete exhaustion led to complete collapse.
“Anyone that did Fight Gone Bad is an incredible athlete, they are just gas tanks,” said Kenai coach Jeff Baker, one of the event organizers.
In the lifting events, six new records were set, and a seventh one was tied. The snatch lift proved to be the most susceptible, as the record in each class was tied or broken.
Soldotna’s Austin Schrader set a new high of 170 pounds in the boys freshman and sophomore category, Kenai’s Lara Creighton tied her own mark of 105 pounds shared with teammate Alexis Baker in the freshman-sophomore girls class, Kenai’s Cipriana Castellano smashed the old record with a lift of 135 pounds in the junior-senior girls class, and Kenai’s Jace Baker grinded out a lift of 205 pounds to top his old mark in the junior-senior boys class. Baker later pulled an unofficial 215 pounds in the snatch, although it did not count because he had used up his three allowed attempts.
One of the most anticipated lifters all evening was Castellano, a Kenai junior who often goes by “CC.”
Three weeks ago, Castellano traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for the Arnold USA Powerlifting Championships, and cleaned up with International Powerlifting Federation records in the squat, deadlift and three-lift total for women under 19 years old and under 158 pounds. Thursday at SoHi, Castellano said she was lifting with not a lot of prior preparation in the weeks since the “Arnold”.
“I think the spectators like to watch me,” Castellano said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
Thursday, Castellano lifted 135 pounds for the snatch and squatted 330, and added that she is not looking for the attention, but competes simply for the joy of it. However, it’s hard to miss a girl lifting over twice her body weight.
“It’s always fun to hit a PR, but I’m dropping weight, so I didn’t hit any PRs,” Castellano said.
Coming off the grueling training block leading up to the Arnold competition, Castellano is now focusing on getting her body weight down to 138 pounds in advance of the International Powerlifting Association Raw Classics Championships in Finland in June. It has translated to much of her training coming at high volume but low weights, so Thursday’s SST lift was not her personal best. However, it does not diminish the accomplishment for many.
“Any time a 140-pound girl back squats (330) pounds, that’s amazing,” Baker said.
That wasn’t even the high-water mark for Castellano, whose personal record is 369, set in Ohio. She has a PR of 140 in the snatch, 5 pounds heavier than what she pulled Thursday.
Just minutes after Castellano dropped her final weight of the evening, Nikiski senior Christian Riddall stepped up onto the lifting pad and tacked 20 pounds onto the previous SST junior-senior boys clean record. Riddall lifted 305 pounds in front of a gym full of cheering fans.
“Feels good,” Riddall said. “When you’ve got guys from other schools cheering you on, it gives you a little extra motivation.”
With the victory in hand, Riddall then tried for 315, but came up just short. The previous best was 285, a mark Riddall shared with his old Nikiski football teammate, Stephan Hartley. Riddall said in the five months since the Bulldogs lost the small-schools football championship to Eielson, he has been “busting his butt” in the weight room. It appears the effort has paid off.
“I just think of what I’m gonna do, picture it with my mind and go for it,” he said about his record attempt.
“I’d like to put that record as far away as I can from everyone else. I’d like for it to stay awhile.”
Along with Riddall, Soldotna’s Schrader posted a win in the boys freshman-sophomore class with a clean of 235 pounds, while the girls divisions was won by Creighton in the freshman-sophomore class (155 pounds) and Sarah Every in the junior-senior class (also 155).
Soldotna’s Adam O’Guinn pulled the heaviest weight of the evening by far in the squat event, muscling an SST-record 455 pounds in the boys junior-senior class. In the boys freshman-sophomore class, Kenai’s John Delgato lifted 335, and in the girls freshman-sophomore class, Nikiski’s Avery Kornstad pulled 215.
Once the heavy lifting was over, the night came down to the spectacle that is the Fight Gone Bad. No records were set, but there were still a few impressive performances.
The event features five stations of exercises, starting with box jumps and proceeding on to push presses (lifting a 45-pound bar), kettlebell swings, ball slams and ending with wall balls (thrusting a weighted ball onto the wall). Each athlete has one minute at each station, and is pushed to complete three laps, which adds up to 15 minutes of misery.
In the junior-senior boys round, Kenai senior Travis Cooper dominated the field with 554 total repetitions, churning away at each station with clocklike consistency to defend his FGB title from a year ago.
“He was a machine, it’s like someone turned him on and he just went forever,” coach Baker said.
Soldotna’s Brenner Furlong won the freshman-sophomore boys division with 413 reps, while SoHi’s Sadie Fox grabbed the win in the junior-senior girls class with 377 reps, and Julieanne Wilson of Kenai won the freshman-sophomore girls class with 368 reps.
11-12 Boys — Adam O’Guinn, Soldotna, 455 pounds (new record)
11-12 Girls — Cipriana Castellano, Kenai, 330 (new record)
9-10 Boys — John Delgato, Kenai, 335
9-10 Girls — Avery Kornstad, Nikiski, 215
11-12 Boys — Christian Riddall, Nikiski, 305 (new record)
11-12 Girls — Sarah Every, Kenai, 155
9-10 Boys — Austin Schrader, SoHi, 235
9-10 Girls — Lara Creighton, Kenai, 155
11-12 Boys — Jace Baker, Kenai, 205 (new record)
11-12 Girls — Cipriana Castellano, Kenai, 135 (new record)
9-10 Boys — Austin Schrader, Soldotna, 170 (new record)
9-10 Girls — Lara Creighton, Kenai, 105 (record tie)
Fight Gone Bad
11-12 Boys — Travis Cooper, Kenai, 554
11-12 Girls — Sadie Fox, Soldotna, 377
9-10 Boys — Brenner Furlong, Soldotna, 413