The Speed, Strength and Training competition held on a biannual basis is not for the faint of heart.
Even the energy and exuberance of a high school athlete can be broken by the struggle to reach or break an observed record with a packed gym of onlookers.
On Thursday night at Nikiski High School, Skyview coach Eric Pomerleau summed up the final event — the “Fight Gone Bad” competition — perfectly when addressing the 23 entrants before the start.
“Who here has never done this before?” Pomerleau asked, to which a few hands went up.
Four schools compete for the title of SST champion, with the winners getting bragging rights and the privilege of taking home the traveling trophy.
Kenai Central retained its title after winning it back in October. The Kards amassed 221 points, 85 more than runner-up Skyview. Host Nikiski finished third with 112 points and Homer — a new entrant — took fourth with 18.
Nine of 16 event records were either broken or tied Thursday, pointing to the success of the SST curriculum.
However, no new high marks were set in the most anticipated event, the Fight Gone Bad.
“It’s all mental,” said Kenai senior Justice English.
English defended her FGB crown from last year, in which she totaled a record 525 total repetitions.
“When I start, I can’t be jacked up like everybody else,” English said. “I have to be focused, because it’s a fight against yourself, not anybody else.”
The FGB consists of five separated stations spread across the length of the gym floor. They include box jumps, kettlebell swings, push press (lifting a 45-pound bar), ball slams, and wall balls (thrusting a heavy ball onto the wall).
Each athlete must spend a minute at each station, and must make three laps of the gym. It adds up to 15 hard minutes of work.
English didn’t come close to her 2013 record Thursday, only managing 475 reps, but it was good enough to beat Kenai teammate Beverley Schindler, who had 420. English admitted that she had not put in much recent training, which is easy to accept since she was vacationing in Hawaii.
“But if I can see the person ahead of me or feel the person behind me, I don’t put it down first,” she said.
English’s strategy was to stop about 10 seconds early on the kettlebells station, in order to rest up for her best station, the push press.
“Push press is the one that you’re going to get the most reps with,” English said. “I wait until (the others) put it down first, take a couple more reps, then pick it up at the same time as they do, so I know I’m ahead.”
Senior Travis Cooper, also from Kenai, won the boys junior-senior FGB, but it was awfully close. Cooper edged Skyview’s Bailey Blumentritt by a single rep — 567 to 566. Neither boy came close to the 616 reps that Nikiski’s Jesse Ross cranked out last year.
“It’s pretty competitive, and I’m a pretty competitive person,” Cooper said. “Anytime I can beat someone, even just barely, it’s fun.”
Cooper is an expert cross-country skier for the Kardinals, and said ski training has served him well for the FGB.
“It’s a different kind of pain,” he said. “Skiing is more about your legs, and this involves your legs, arms, core, it’s everything.”
Among the records that fell were Skyview’s Adam O’Guinn, whose squat performance of 445 pounds in the boys junior-senior division bettered the weight of 425 pounds that Nikiski’s Lincoln Johnson pulled from a year ago.
Nikiski’s Katie Costello squatted 270 pounds in the girls junior-senior division, breaking the 245 she put up a year ago. Cipirana Castellano of Kenai shattered her own girls freshman-sophomore squat record from 2013, going from 225 pounds to 285. Castellano also broke the record in the girls clean event with a 170-pound effort, up from 125.
In the girls clean, Skyview’s Cat Schoessler broke a tie she held with Nikiski’s Taylor Calderwood, upping the junior-senior girls record from 145 pounds to 165.
In the boys junior-senior snatch event, Kenai’s Jace Baker tied Gabe Holley’s (Skyview) 2013 mark of 195 pounds. In the girls snatch event, Schoessler pulled 115 pounds to break the junior-senior mark.
In the boys freshman-sophomore snatch event, Nikiski’s Luke Johnson tied his own record from a year ago with 165 pounds. In the girls freshman-sophomore snatch event, Kenai had two athletes break the old record — Lara Creighton and Alexis Baker with 105-pound efforts.
Here are the winners from each event:
Squat — 11-12 boys — Adam O’Guinn, Sky, 445 pounds (new record); 11-12 girls — Katie Costello, Nik, 270 pounds (new record); 9-10 boys — Michael Tilly, Ken, 350; 9-10 girls — Cipirana Castellano, Ken, 285 pounds (new record).
Clean — 11-12 boys — Marcos Calix, Ken, 245 pounds; 11-12 girls — Cat Schoessler, Sky, 165 pounds (new record); 9-10 boys — Michael Tilly, Ken, 245 pounds; 9-10 girls — Cipirano Castellano, Ken, 170 pounds (new record).
Snatch — 11-12 boys — Jace Baker, Ken, 195 pounds (tied record); 11-12 girls — Cat Schoessler, Sky, 115 pounds (new record); 9-10 boys — Luke Johnson, Nik, 165 pounds (tied record); 9-10 girls — Lara Creighton, Ken/Alexis Baker, Ken, 105 pounds (new record).
FGB — 11-12 boys — Travis Cooper, Ken, 567 reps; 11-12 girls — Justice English, Ken, 475 reps; 9-10 boys — Dylan Broussard, Nik, 558 reps; 9-10 girls — Julieann Wilson, Ken, 363 reps.