Muscling their way to the top

Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2004

World record King Salmon, 2004 Iditarod Winner, Future Problem Solving champs, Alaska State Jr. Miss, High School Basketball, Football, Track, and Wrestling championships, are just a few of the competitive titles deservingly claimed by athletes from the Kenai Peninsula. And now the Peninsula is beginning to be recognized as the home of competitive body builders. Earlier this spring at the Alaska State Body Building Championships, Bernie Pendergast of Sterling came home with 1st Place honors and the master's title for men over 50. Pendergast, a taxidermist, says he was motivated by his son to become competitive, "I'd been in and out of gyms all my life, but my son Nicholas competed in the State competition in 1996 & '97 and that inspired me more than anything to get into this. He wanted me to do it at that time and I didn't feel I was ready back then, but with a few more years of training I thought I'd give it a try before I had too many wrinkles," said Pendergast. He attributes his overall health to the sport and even though he loves body building and the competition says he has no plans to ever run for governor. Pendergast however, has been the inspiration for others to get serious about the sport. One of those is Joann Wainwright who competed for the first time this year at the State Championships and taking 2nd Place in the women's masters division. "I met Bernie at The Fitness Place and we talked about it when his son was competing, but he pretty much inspired me to train for the show this year. This is a great gym, the people are very helpful and motivate you when you're training, you can't help but get inspired working out around these people," said Wainwright.

Danny Pankoski owns a concrete construction business in the area, "My winters are a little bit free because you can't pour concrete very well here in the winter, and then when spring comes you feel good about getting to work," said Pankoski who placed 4th in the over 40 Men's Masters division. In the Heavy weight division Brian Sweeney, also from Soldotna and a member at The Fitness Place came home with the 2nd Place trophy.

Melissa May is the new owner of The Fitness Place and almost joined the local team this spring to compete in Anchorage, "Bernie is a very inspiring guy, he is dedicated to helping others and has been very encouraging to everyone here at the gym and his championship has brought the club recognition," said May, who will celebrate her first anniversary owning The Fitness Place this summer, "I've had a great year, it's been a lot of fun you are surrounded by people who want to be healthy and motivate others to improve their life styles," added Melissa.

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