The photo was taken by Roman Moreno and features, from left to right, Kristi Wolf, Powerhouse Gym Owner; Sherry Smith, Figure Overall; Tonya Hunt, Fitness Overall; Tom Hussey, Men’s Bodybuilding Overall; Karen Patten, Alaska’s only Pro Fitness Athlete and Guest Poser; Amber Tobin, Junior Fitness Overall; and Heather Huschle, Women’s Bodybuilding Overall.
Here’s a pop quiz for Alaskabodybuilding.com readers: What do freezing cold temperatures, snowfall, and girls in bikinis have in common? All are signs of spring- well, spring in Alaska, at least. This past March, after a long, cold winter, Alaskan athletes were eager to shed their thermal layers to reveal tanned and toned bodies. Over 30 of them had that opportunity at the ABFF Alaska State Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Championships held in Anchorage. A wide variety of athletes from all over the state showed up to demonstrate the effects of their dedication and hard work. There were quite a few new faces, and a good showing in the junior division, which bodes well for the continued and expanding interest in the sport. It was great to see many of the seasoned competitors helping out the rookies with last minute posing advice and stage preparation. While the backstage environment can be extremely stressful and intimidating, especially for a new competitor, the support and camaraderie between the athletes was evident.
The show started with yours truly, Alaska’s only Professional Fitness Competitor, making a surprise appearance and showing off the routine that helped me earn my pro card. As a lifelong Alaskan, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to perform in front of my hometown, and thank Tony Weaver and Derek Snelson for the opportunity. I was followed by, and perhaps outdone by, junior fitness competitor Amber Tobin. Amber is a 9 year old dynamo with stage presence, strength moves, and confidence to rival any pro I’ve seen. With a huge smile on her pixie face, she performed effortless one armed push ups, dynamic straddle jumps, and tumbled across the stage as her music was drowned out by the cheering of the crowd. Look out for Amber in the future- this girl has talent and determination to spare!
Victoria Clark, in her very first fitness competition, showed her patriotic spirit in honor of her deployed husband with an army theme. Her routine was dynamic and entertaining, eliciting a favorable reaction from the packed to capacity crowd. She was followed by the second and last fitness competitor, Tonya Hunt. Tonya showed excellent endurance and amazing strength to take the lead in the fitness competition round in a near unanimous judging decision. When these 2 came back out for the physique rounds, the judges placed Victoria ahead of Tonya for both rounds. In the end, Tonya Hunt came away the victor, and now holds the prestigious title of Alaska State Fitness Champion. Not to be denied, Victoria Clark was the recipient of the “Best Routine” award.
This was the first competition for many of the figure competitors, a fact that would undeniably surprise anyone who was in the audience that day. All the competitors looked very polished and well prepared. The figure class was broken down into two height classes and a masters division. Sherry Smith beat out the largest number of competitors to win first place in the 5-foot-4 and under category, with Kristin Cash taking second, and Donda Zimmer in third. In the 5-foot-4 and over category, Crystal Howland took first place to Amber Adams. Debbie Fowler was the winner in the Masters division, followed by Debra Bond in second place. The overall title went to Sherry Smith, who has made dramatic improvements in her physique and posing, as she also earned “Best Presentation” by the judges. Look for her later in the year as she moves on to compete in Regional and National competitions.
Although the number of competitors in women’s bodybuilding was low, the competition was fierce. The judges certainly had their work cut out for them. In women’s novice bodybuilding, Holly Nipp took the title as the lone competitor. In light-weight women, Heather Huschle beat out Angie Brennan. Angie felt some vindication for her second placement as she earned the “Best Legs” award. Megan Doil walked away with the Middle-Weight Women title and the best poser award, and Heidi Hegg-Hackett took the Light-HeavyWeight class. Heidi also earned distinction as having the “Best Back” and “Best Chest.” Rounding out women’s bodybuilding, Karla Renkert was the Heavyweight champion. Winning the open title and taking home a sword was Heather Huschle, with feminine lines and perfect symmetry .Heather also earned the “Best Abs” and “Best Arms” awards, presented at the after-party.
Men’s bodybuilding got started with the novice competitors. In a tight competition, Jose Candelario won first place, with Joshua Brand taking second, Matthew Landers in third, and Bradley Williams rounding out the class. In the Junior Men’s Class, Matt Wonchala earned first place. Britt Britt took home the Masters Men (over 40) title, and in the Masters Men (over 50) class, Lindsay Knight beat out Jack Phipps for first place. These four winners then took the stage to battle for an overall sword. Matt Wonchala walked away with the win in a decisive victory.
In Men’s Open Bodybuilding, things got rolling with the Lightweight division, where Geoff Bonin won his class, and James Hackett walked away the Middleweight Men champion. Geoff was also voted by the judges as the competitor with “Best Arms” and James earned the “Best Back” award. In the Light Heavyweight competition, there were some tough calls for the judges to make. Tom Hussey won them over with his leanness, symmetry and definition, which also earned him the “Best Chest”, “Best Legs” and “Most Muscular” awards. Steve Breci took a hard fought second, and Marc Dunham came in a close third and the “Best Abs” award. Rounding out the class were Caleb Harvey in fourth and Matthew Thompkins in fifth. Eric Willis was the lone Heavyweight, and easily won his class.
In a hard fought battle for the overall, Tom Hussey barely edged out James Hackett for the win. Although James fell just one point shy of the overall win, he’ll be consoled by his “Best Poser” award.
As if the competition itself wasn’t exciting enough, the crowd was also thrilled to have Lee Priest on hand for photos and autographs. Lee is one of the most popular and well known professional bodybuilders and is enjoying a long and successful career.
As co-promoters of this event, Derek Snelson and Tony Weaver have done an excellent job raising awareness and eliciting excitement about this event. With their capabilities, there is no doubt this show will continue to grow, as more and more athletes are drawn into this most challenging sport.