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The Bradsher Beat
Thursday, July 12, 2007

By Bethany Bradsher

Bucs relish Golden's wicked summer stew

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

The summer strength and conditioning protocol can become monotonous for East Carolina football players. The Strongman Competition is head strength coach Mike Golden’s antidote for that repetitiveness.

The contest has also become an important measuring stick for the program.

Take for example the wooden sled push, one of the nine events that make up the Strongman Competition. In Golden’s first year, 2005, competitors pushed the sled the width of the football field, about 53 yards, and the winner finished the race in 42.7 seconds. Last week the athletes pushed the sled the length of the field, 100 yards, and winner C.J. Wilson finished in 32 seconds.

“We made it tougher this year,” Golden said. “We added some events to make it a little bit harder. We’re stronger and faster than we were the last two years, so we had to up the ante a little bit.”

Prior to the competition, Golden and his staff divide the squad into ten teams of ten players each, handpicked to ensure that each team has a mix of size, strength and speed. Each team member must contend in at least one of the nine events, and the winning team receives a photographic plaque and a year’s worth of bragging rights.

If any Pirate has something to crow about after Thursday’s competition, it’s senior right end Jay Sonnhalter, the captain of the winning team and the champion of the Blackbeard’s Challenge event, a type of uber-obstacle course that players consider the toughest part of the competition.

“After it was over, we all kind of jumped around in their face and talked trash,” said Sonnhalter, who took the Blackbeard’s Challenge crown for the second year in a row.

The other members of Sonnhalter’s team, called Neptune’s Anger, were Wilson, Fred Hicks, Larry Lease, Matt Thompson, Eric Nowell, Patrick Pinkney, Travis Williams and Ronald Wright.

Other events the teams tackled on the day of the competition were the log press, the farmer’s walk (a walking race in which participants hold 200 pounds in each hand), the sandbag relay and the 2 X 400 relay. The last two require a pair of players from each team to compete together.

“Some of the events are the same as the strongman competitions you see on TV,” Golden said. “The other stuff is just what we come up with from our evil, deviant minds.”

The Strongman Competition certainly features some moments of pain, Sonnhalter said, but the players look forward to it nonetheless. When the summer months stretch out and one weight session blurs into the next, they relish the chance to do battle against each other.

“I think it’s really good because during the summer we don’t have any games or competition,” Sonnhalter said. “It feels good to get into teams and compete. It’s really fun. It’s almost like a mini-preseason game.”

“I think it helps break it up,” Golden said. “We can reward them if they do well, instead of just the same thing, not getting anywhere. Because Sept. 1 is a long way away.”

Competitions similar to the one at ECU are conducted at colleges across the country, Golden said, but many feature only individual competition. The team element is valuable because it helps build chemistry on a micro level, a unity of purpose that should serve the Pirates when that tough September schedule looms large.

“We kind of give them ownership of it,” Golden said. “This stuff works the whole body, and that’s the goal. We’re trying to make complete athletes.”

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07/12/2007 03:57:50 PM

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