For the 8th straight year athletes from near and far gathered to compete in Madisonville, KY to show off their strength. This years Classic included 75 competitors and was very talent rich. There are too many performances to mention them all, but there were definitely some highlights.

Where my strong ladies at?

If you have ever asked yourself this question I have your answer. They were at the Refuge Classic. We had 35 amazing female powerhouses show up to compete. To say they did not disappoint is an understatement. In fact I may have less male competitors next year for fear that they will fail to meet the awesome standard set by these ladies.

For the ladies the day started on log press. Either gravity was lighter on this day or the weights were just not enough because the reps piled up. Mary Rae Cain cranked out 10 reps with 140 lbs to win the HW Open division.

After log press the next event up was the yoke. Weights on this for the ladies ranged from 300 to 400 lbs. This was obviously not enough as it was an all out sprint. I blinked once and missed 4 heats. So many fast performances to mention, but Kristen Faubion 9.54 second run with 350 lbs was a neckbreaker.

From here we moved over to the car deadlift. Here teenager Kelsey Brinker continued her bid at a clean sweep of the Teen division with a strategic 7 reps. Most of the divisions were riddled with competitors that hit around 8 or 9 reps. Then Mary Rae Cain walks out and drops 20.

Now the drag race continue at farmers. Katie Schmalschof ran a 6.42 which I can confidently say was faster than I can run the same distance with no weight. The amazing performances from the women on this event were a site to behold, but equally as amazing was Mike Hope’s ability to reset them back to the line faster than a rabid mongoose after each of the 35 heats.

Next up was Atlas Stone over the bar. Here Julie Dailey cranked out 11 at a weight of 135 to lead the heavyweight masters. Raeanne Pemberton channeled her inner catapult and tossed the 170 over the bar 5 times.

There were so many great competitors in the women’s division this year. I promise if I get that many next year I will expand to four lanes with two of those lanes being women.

The Boys are Back in Town

Forty. That’s the number of male competitors that rolled into Madisonville to battle it out at the Refuge Classic. These weren’t just 40 people though. This was a group which included several people who have won or placed top ten at the national level. So many stacked classes and great performances.

So many amazing performances here. Some classes were decided by a point while in others extreme dominance was displayed. A couple of novices decided to have a coming out party. LW Novice Dylan Spina lapped the field taking 3 first places a second and a third in a very tough and deep LW Novice division. In the HW Novices Brady Crutcher put the world on notice as he got out his broom and swept all 5 events.

The teen division was won by Kaelin Crick, but he had to fight off a very heartfelt performance (more on that later) from Michaelangelo Liquori. Kaelin edged out Michaelangelo in 4 events, but they were all hard fought wins.

On the other end of the age spectrum we had some great Master’s show up. Gave me a renewed hope that someday my old man strength will show up. The LW Masters was a very hard fought division. David Hurdle and Larry Barry went into the last event in a deadlock. Even the tiebreaker countback worked out dead even. David was able to secure the victory by one rep on stones. The HW masters was a party in itself. Eric Parnell secured the event win in 4 events. This is despite Bradley Leavitt wearing the brightest pink shirt ever to try to distract him.

The open men’s divisions had some great battles of their own. Richie Stecker secured his national bid by making it known that he is a force at 150 lbs. The 175 class featured several newcomers who came to make a name of themselves. These guys had great performances, but more than anything showed they have the potential to be great if they stick with it. Travis Poulton was able to edge out Daniel Dones for the victory. The open 200’s were stacked as usual. Also as usual Wesley Ipock showed up and proved that he urinates Bud Light and excellence while securing another victory. He was also able to set a PR for most clothing worn while competing and able to win his first contest as a father. Everyone knows I love that kid. Addison Overby was able to get over his past Refuge Classic demons and secure a victory in the 231’s. In the HW’s Bryon Arena let everyone know that the doctor was in as he gave out a dose of strong medicine to the 265 class.

For the Love of the Game

More important than the performances and the victories is the human aspect of all of this. Earlier this year the world tragically lost Mikie Hill far too early. I did not have the privilege of knowing him as well as some others, but some things were just apparent: he loved life, his family, and strongman. Always happy positive and smiling while competing. In his honor, his wife Allyxandra Hill, brother-in-law Michaelangelo Liquori and a whole crew came down to compete. After the show Allyxandra hugged me and told me she thought Mikie would be proud. I know he is smiling looking down. I have no doubts. This is what strongman is all about. It’s about love for the game and love for one another as a family.