Six qualify for Strongman nationals

By Greg Gulas


The goal for Team BSS during Saturday’s first local strongman competition was very simple: to qualify someone for the national North American Strongman competition this coming November.

When the last weight was lifted and stone-over-48-inch-bar rep taken, six contestants had successfully qualified.

“We’re very pleased,” Team BSS owner Shawn Schumaker said. “The weather cooperated so we were able to stage all events outside. We had a nice turnout and there was plenty of excitement so we’ll plan on doing it again next year, right around this time, and hope to grow and get even bigger.”

There were 20 entries, including two women, both of whom qualified for NAS nationals.

Ashley Lawrence, who won the competition by a point over her sister, Morgan Fagnano, was competing in her third strongman event while Fagnano, a senior at YSU, has been training since October and was taking part in her first competition.

“I’d like to think that I am in shape but there is always room for improvement, as I found out today,” Lawrence said. “Shawn [Schumaker] is my brother-in-law and after watching the world’s strongest man competition on television, I asked him if there was anything like that out there for women. When he told me there were women’s divisions at various competitions, I became hooked.”

Fagnano won the yoke/keg and dead lift/log medley while Lawrence was tops in tire flips, axle clean/press for reps and stone-over-48-inch-bar total reps competition.

“For this being my first competition, I was pleased with my overall effort. Ashley and I have a great sibling rivalry and I hope that it continues that way for a long time,” Fagnano stated.

Matthew Williams of Rochester, N.Y., a high school physical education teacher who works with inner-city youth, strained his right forearm at Vermont’s Green Mountain State Strongman competition last June, settling for a third-place finish after leading going into the third event.

Less than a year after his injury, he qualified in the Open, over 265-pound category.

“My goal was to do my very best today and that was good enough to qualify for nationals. Needless to say I am a very happy person right now,” Williams noted. “This complex is awesome and the competition fun, so in my eyes, the trip was worthwhile.”

Also qualifying in Open Division competition as a lightweight (under 231 pounds) was James Norton of North Tonawanda, N.Y.

He won three of five events and finished runner-up in the other two, posting 23 points.

“If I had the words to describe what I was feeling right now then I wouldn’t be speechless. A lot of hard work has gone into this and today it paid off,” he said. “It’s just a great feeling to know that I’ve qualified for this fall’s national competition.”

Two Masters’ entrants, lightweight Edward Leonhard and heavyweight Jeff Hedrich, were the final two national qualifiers.

Hedrich, 53, the owner of Prodigal Media, was the oldest contestant in Saturday’s field.

“I started competing four years ago simply because I was putting on weight and getting out of shape. I played small college football at Case Western Reserve and was always working out with weights, but training kind of got away from me,” Hedrich said. “To paraphrase a line from the movie ‘Chariots of Fire,’ when I lift I feel God’s pleasure. It was a fun day.”

Elyria’s Mason Bremke took home novice heavyweight honors while Kurt Gamby earned novice lightweight laurels.

“I signed up for novice competition because I wanted this to be my stepping stone to open division competition,” Bremke said. “My trainer, Steve Schmidt, is close to achieving his pro card so I cannot think of anyone better to train and push me when I am training.”

For Gamby, a junior who is studying exercise science/strength and conditioning at the University of Akron, his very first competition was more than he had anticipated.

“I do CrossFit so these are heavier weights than what I am ordinarily used to working with. This is just my second time competing in all five events so I am obviously pleased with my overall finish,” Gamby said. “I just wanted to finish every competition, and did.”

Team BSS co-owner Brandy Schumacker said the event raised between $500 and $1,000 for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

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