NEW YORK—Okay, so I knew this Victor Martinez kid wasn't exactly chopped liver. Took the Heavyweight class at the '00 Junior USA back in April. Lost the Overall to Superheavyweight Art Atwood. Could be a factor at the Nationals down the road, I thought. I didn't realize Martinez knew a back route and would get there quicker than anyone imagined. Much quicker. He jumped into the Nationals, held November 10 and 11, in front of his homeboys at the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center, and it was like a dream. The wonderfully sculpted 5'9', 222-pounder K.O.'d the class with straight first-place votes! Then he defeated the remaining class winners in the posedown to become the Overall champ! But it was no dream. Victor is the King!
Heather Foster has been dreaming about winning a national crown for years. The 33-year-old New Yorker won her class at the USA a few years back, but she seemed to be slipping in recent outings and thoughts that she was due for a pro card appeared to be more fantasy than fact.
What a time for her to put things together. The 160-pounder, like her counterpart in the Men's division, got a unanimous nod from the judges'after the three high and three low votes were eliminated'to take her class, then bested the rest in the Overall comparisons. So New York dominated the bodybuilding events, which is rather fitting, as it was the first time the Men's and Women's Nationals were held together in New York since the inaugural event back in 1982.
Like Foster, fitness ace Beth Horn had come oh-so-close on several occasions but always left the arena without the trophy that counts. Not this time. The striking 5'8' blonde from Chicago dominated the Over-5'4 1/2' class, then toppled two worthy opponents en route to the Overall crown. All class winners in the bodybuilding battle and the top two in each fitness class earned pro status. Let's take a closer look at the action.
Superheavyweight. Robert Washington was considered the favorite in this class after his impressive runner-up finish to Overall champ Bob Cicherillo at the '00 USA. Robzilla weighed 252 in that one; he shed seven pounds for the Nationals, came in a bit tighter and was able to dominate with straight ones from the judges. It's been a long haul for the 38-year-old former Team Universe and Junior Nationals Overall champion, but the San Antonio, Texas, resident gets better each year, and he's ready to take dead aim on the pros.
This was one tough class, as the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place finishers were separated by a single digit. Veteran Stokely Palmer, a 244-pounder from Newark, New Jersey, used his big guns to shoot his way into second, while Pennsylvania's Edward Moyzan slipped into third. Los Angeles physique star Quincy Taylor, the heaviest man in the lineup at 6'3' and 272 pounds, battled to edge Eric Fromm (fifth) and Jeremy Freeman (sixth) for the number-four slot.
Heavyweight. Based on his strong second-place finish to Tevita Aholelei at the USA, Arizona's Troy Alves was the overpowering pick in this class. And he did look swell, but then along came Victor, whose superiority in the glutes, hamstrings and calves spelled another disappointment for the 219-pound Alves. Troy held off the challenge of former Junior USA winner Doug Jabalee to secure another silver-medal finish. A 216-pounder from Atlanta, Jabalee was in great condition and, like Troy, should pick up a pro card in the near future.
Maryland's Ronnie Adams, a symmetrical 211-pounder, landed in fourth, with David Watson finishing one point ahead of Jeremiah Forster to pick up the fifth-place award.
Light Heavyweight. This class might have well been renamed the New Jersey Classic. Craig Richardson of Patterson and Massachusetts ace Fred Bigot were the favorites, and they finished one-two. Richardson has long been a champ-in-waiting, but he needed to get harder. That changed at the Nationals, where the 194-pounder was in his all-time greatest shape, displaying shredded glutes and deep, separated hamstrings that paved the way to a unanimous victory. For Bigot it was a discouraging defeat after a powerful performance at the USA, where he won his class. Fred looked good, as always. The decision had more to do with Richardson's superior shape and conditioning than anything Bigot did wrong. New Jersey's Vinnie Galanti and Rob Lopez finished in the third and fourth slots, respectively, while David Wisdom landed in a tie-breaker with Lopez before ending up in fifth.
Middleweight. Many people thought George Farah should have won the Middleweight crown at the '99 Junior Nationals. The Rochester, New York, muscle machine didn't let that defeat get him down and promised a victory here. Barely making the weight-class limit of 176 1/2 pounds, Farah was hard as a rock and displayed one of the thickest backs I've ever seen on a Middleweight. Farah's brilliant conditioning carried him to a unanimous class win. He bested a thick Warren James, another former Junior USA champ, and former USA class and Team U Overall winner Johnny Stewart, who placed second and third, respectively. The 174-pound James was very impressive and will be tough to beat in 2001. Jumpin' Johnny, who had a tough time making weight, said it's up to the Light Heavyweight class from here on out. Brian Chamberlain was an impressive fourth, with Thomas Brown landing in fifth.
Lightweight. Tricky Ricky Jackson has won this class at every national event'except this one. The Lexington, Kentucky, Lexus almost did it last season, when he lost by one point. This time out he didn't count on Noel Thompson. The '99 USA Lightweight champ was a ripped-and-ready 154 pounds, and he made the long trip from Camarillo, California, sporting thick quads and shredded glutes, among other fine bodyparts, to beat Tricky by six points.
The biggest battle in the class was actually the fight for second. Jackson finished two points ahead of Cheung Teav, a hard 148-pounder, and veteran Randy Jackson Sr., a former USA class winner who's always in prime shape. Teav bested Randy in a tie-breaker to take third, while another well-known name in the class, Al Escobar Jr., placed fifth. Escobar brought tears to the eyes of many in the house when he announced he was dedicating his performance to his father, who'd passed away a year earlier.
ALLBantamweight. Longtime competitor Gary Passmore was in great condition, which carried the 143-pounder from Terre Haute, Indiana, to a narrow three-point decision over Shelby, North Carolina's Ricky Parks. Both men looked tremendous, but Passmore's thickness proved to be the margin of victory. Another North Carolina standout, Johnny McKnight IV, who took second at the USA, was the solid pick for third, with Hawaiian flexer Clifton Torres and Atlanta's George Gibson finishing in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Overall. After Friday night's judging it looked as if Richardson would be bringing another Overall crown to John Kemper's famous Diamond Gym. When the class winners went pose for pose 24 hours later, however, Martinez's shape and muscularity took the top prize.
Heavyweight. Foster was in her best condition in years, but her victory didn't come easily. Lora Ottenad, the Puyallup, Washington, resident who took the class at the USA, carried 170 pounds of solid muscle to push Foster to the limit. Another New Yorker, Brooklyn's Sylvia Cowan, was in sharp condition and nabbed the third-place honor ahead of two other ladies who were in very good condition, Sheilahe Brown and Jayne Trcka. Veteran and frequent top-five finisher Michelle Ivers followed Trcka in sixth.
Middleweight. This was the most interesting class of the women's division. Leading the pack of 20 Middleweights were 41-year-old veteran Mah-Ann Mendoza and Kim Harris. Mendoza was greatly disappointed with her fourth-place finish at the USA and had vowed to get her pro card in New York. She looked outstanding, displaying great balance on her 131-pound frame, and picked up two first-place votes. After the high and low votes were tossed, though, Harris came away with a unanimous victory. Kim was trim and shapely at 131 1/2 pounds. It was a tough class, but Harris' conditioning gave her the edge and kept Mendoza a notch away from the pro ranks yet again. Lisa Winston edged Pennsylvania's Beth Roberts for third, with two-time Team Universe Overall winner Lisa Aukland rounding out the top five.
Lightweight. Michigan's Jennifer Lupi showed up in great shape, with a great set of abs, and earned a unanimous victory in the class, although two judges actually thought she deserved fourth or fifth. Thank goodness for the elimination rule. Lupi tipped the scales at 118 pounds and outpointed runner-up Elena Seiple-Perticari, a crisp 117 1/2-pounder out of Washington, New Jersey. New Jersey also produced third-place finisher Mona Cavaretta, a tight 114-pounder from Belle Mead, while Florida's R. Tera Guzman and Deborah Barnes-Dorris were unanimous picks for fourth and fifth.
Short. Caroline Nash of Charleston, South Carolina, carried second-place finishes in the two swimsuit rounds and a fourth in the fitness round to score a 19-point victory over Austin, Texas, athlete Jennie Hanke. Hanke was solid in all three rounds'fourth in the swimsuit competitions and third in the fitness round'to edge out Ohio phenom Mari Kudla for second. The 20-year-old Kudla, who was dubbed 'the next Monica Brant' after winning the recent Ohio Governor's Cup, won both swimsuit rounds in her first national competition. As she could place only 13th in the performance round, she ended up four points behind Hanke. New Jersey's Alti Bautista, a precontest favorite, had to settle for fourth, while former NCAA gymnastics star Heather McCormick, whose mind-boggling flips, twirls and spins carried her to a win in the fitness round, placed fifth.
Medium. Consistency was the name of the game for Stacy Hylton, who was strong in all three rounds to lead the way in this class. A 5'3' veteran out of Winter Park, Florida, Hylton was second in both swimsuit rounds and third in the routines to finish 17 points ahead of fellow Floridian Anna Merchan. Merchan dazzled in the fitness round but middling swimsuit scores put her a distant second behind Hylton. Another top Ohio performer, Dana Maurer, landed in third ahead of the lovely 5'2 1/4' Sharon Christian. Heather Cox won the one-piece-swimsuit category but was somehow placed 11th in the two-piece round, which relegated her to fifth overall.
Tall. Beth Horn had had it with third-place finishes. She ended up one place short of a pro card at the '99 and '00 USA competitions and at last summer's T. U. as well. This time around she left no margin for error, dominating all three rounds en route to a resounding 31-point win over Gina Tomaseski. Gina was in great shape, as always, and placed fourth in both swimsuit competitions and second in the fitness round to be a convincing runner-up. Jenny Lynn was in outstanding shape to take the third-place slot, while Delaware's Tracey Greenwood and Massachusetts' Amy Haddad landed in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Overall. Hylton and Nash looked sublime, but it was Horn's night to shine. Beth proved patience is a virtue, returning to every national show until she left with the biggest trophy. Judging by her beaming smile, it was worth the wait. IM