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Photos: Bethany Bradsher.
Photos: Bethany Bradsher.


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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, July 11, 2008

By Bethany Bradsher

The strong get stronger

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

“Pirates resorted to torture for several reasons. They wanted to foster their ruthless reputation that no quarter would be given and no pain would be spared if victims didn’t surrender without a fight. The most prevalent use of torture was to help pirates locate hidden valuables among the passengers and the prize.”

--- From ---

Need modern-day evidence of the link between pirates and unique forms of torture? It could be found Thursday afternoon in the blazing sun at the East Carolina football practice field.

The event? The Strongman Competition, in which Pirates sweated, grunted, collapsed and lost their lunch giving it much more than the old college try in events like the Draft Horse Pull, the Weight Stack and the Devil’s Medley. And this is the day of summer strength training many players look forward to.

Prior to the annual contest, the roster is divided into nine teams of 10 players each. Each team member is assigned to one of the nine events (the 2x400 relay uses two), and the strength and conditioning staff keeps a tally of point totals to determine the winning team.

After two hours and plenty of gasps for air, this year's winning team was Diablo’s Fortune, captained by junior offensive lineman Doug Palmer. The members of Palmer’s team received a custom trophy and will have their photo on a plaque in the weight room, but of course the grand prize is a year’s worth of bragging rights.

“It felt real good,” Palmer said. “It felt like we just did everything we were supposed to do.”

The adrenaline and the testosterone were thick, as the players tried to outmuscle one another and teammates ran alongside their participant to try to will him across the finish line just a little faster.

In the Sled Push, senior C.J. Wilson didn’t need much external encouragement to obliterate the rest of the field: He not only won the event, he finished seven seconds faster than any of his eight competitors.

“My legs are burning,” Wilson said with a grin after emptying his stomach just past the finish line. “I’m the captain this year, so when they can see the captain pushing it so hard, it helps them out.”

Rob Kass, who was one of the most spirited cheerleaders for his Scourge of the Sea team, said that the players embrace the chance to go head-to-head in a period of the football calendar when game-day competition still seems like a distant mirage.

“We’re all competitive players out here, but today only, we’re all on separate teams,” Kass said.

A team captain’s challenge was to find the right event for each athlete in his group, using specific athletic strengths.

In the competitive first heat of the 2X400 relay, sophomore wide receiver Wesley Pittman pulled out in front, and along with anchor Darryl Reynolds won second in the race and helped Diablo’s Fortune to the championship. Pittman is known for his speed despite surgery on a torn meniscus just seven weeks ago.

“I’m a little out of shape, but you do what you have to do,” Pittman said.

A senior facing his last Strongman Competition, linebacker Marcus Hands volunteered for the Draft Horse Pull, in which the athlete wore a harness connected to 300 pounds of weight plates. Once they were outfitted, the players had to run 50 yards carrying their load.

Hands felt ready for the event, he said, because it mirrored the types of exercises he has been doing to rehabilitate after the three shoulder surgeries he has undergone since becoming a Pirate.

“We look forward to this, but to me the main purpose of it is to see how far we’ve come from the spring,” Hands said.

The Strongman serves as a different kind of measuring stick, too, according to head strength coach Mike Golden, the mastermind of the contest. Every year since he started the event four years ago, Golden has seen players come out with more strength, speed and endurance.

“This is where we see our evolution of the program more than anything else,” Golden said. “Our first year we had those wooden sleds, and we went the width of the field, 53 yards, and our times for 100 yards this year beat them like 10 seconds.

"We just have to keep making it harder and harder, because the stuff we did before is just getting too easy for them.”

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07/11/2008 03:51:03 AM

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