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2004 USA Fitness Championships: Desert Hot Bodies

It was a grand night for fitness at the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall on July 16, when 44 women came onstage to quarter-turn in two-piece suits.

Reported July 19, 2004

'04 USA Fitness Championships
Desert Hot Bodies

LAS VEGAS'It was a grand night for fitness at the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall on July 16, when 44 women came onstage to quarter-turn in two-piece suits. And things got even better at 9 a.m. the next day when they performed their routines for the judges, their families and a few dedicated media types. Smiles all, around in the press pit and at the nearby judging table: Fitness was alive and well at the '04 NPC USA Fitness Championships.

Simply put, it was the strongest lineup we'd seen in a long time, with intense competition in the routines, particularly in the short class. These gals were so good, NPC officials were moved to institute a new award for best routine.

Overall winner Bethani Terrell came from the good-looking medium class. In fact, she looked so good, she easily beat short-class champ Sabrina Gibson and tall victor Kristina Henn. The top two in each class earned pro cards.

Short: Talk about coming out of nowhere. Sabrina Gibson dropped into fitness at the '04 Emerald Cup, which she won, and dropped into the pros with her class conquest here. The 5'1" Air Force staff sergeant has a toned and balanced body and legs so long, it's hard to believe she's in the short class. She got the judges' overwhelming approval in the physique rounds and took third in the routines with a strong, energy-charged performance to earn her title by a wide margin.

In the number-two slot by a not-so-wide margin was Brittany Thorsch, a 5'1 3/4" pleasing package from California who edged ahead of Allison Daughtery in the one-piece swimsuits to pick up the second pro card. The competition was as tight as the women's physiques in this class. At the end of the first two rounds Daughtry was in second by a point, with Thorsch and Kristi Wills tied for third and Nita W. Marquez just a point behind them. By trophy time it was Willis finishing third, Daughtery dropping to fourth (What was that about?) and Marquez having to settle for fifth despite a great routine.

Medium. This was the largest lineup, with 22 contestants. The judges took one look at Terrell, put her in the center of the first callout, and that was it. The 5'3 1/2" hard plugger from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, had finally put it all together after a slew of top-five finishes at pro qualifiers. Her third-placed routine didn't hurt, but a glance at her in a swimsuit shows why this was truly Terrell's year.

Another veteran of numerous pro-card runs, Kim Seeley, walked on her hands while balancing her V-split legs in the air to get to get the runner-up pro card. Sandi Ward was a frenzied'and flexible'Elvis in the routines but had to settle for third in another close contest. Nicole Rogers was fourth, with Michelle Marciante rounding out the top five. Beth Horn lookalike Julie Lohre won the routines and ended up in sixth.

Tall. This contest was neck-in-neck from the start. Henn, who was coming off a big win at the Junior Nationals in June, managed to get the numbers to go her way with highly placed physique scores. Though she was in fourth after the first two rounds, Henn cruised ahead of second-placer Tamara Sherrill, third-placer Christina Golden and fourth-in-line Luciana Bell to go to the head of the class.

No disrespect to the others, but I'm not sure I understood that last call. Bell won the routine round, and with her balanced, if long, 5'5 3/4" physique being in its best-ever condition, she seemed a cinch to earn a pro card. It didn't happen. Laticia "Action" Jackson took fifth, but she hurt her leg at the judging and didn't get to perform her entertaining routine at the night show. Henn and Sherrill got the pro cards; the rest will be back to try again for sure.

Best Routine. As often happens at these shindigs, the woman who had the best routine in the show failed to make the top five in her class. Taking action on the spot'although they'd undoubtedly discussed it'officials decided to give out a best routine award. Although she didn't get a trophy, Shiva Bagheri did get to perform her spirited dance-and-strength-oriented number at the finals. Don't worry, Shiva. They'll be ready for ya next time.

Look for the NPC to do some more tweaking of the way it judges and scores amateur fitness competition. And look for schedule tweaking in 2005, when the USA drops fitness and adds figure, while fitness returns to the Team Universe. Visit the IRON MAN Contest Site for the USA photos.

'04 USA Women's Bodybuilding Championships
Hot Bodies II

LAS VEGAS'She got her pro card'and got married'on the same weekend. How many women can say that? The battle for the overall'and the one pro card up for grabs'at the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall on July 17 was a one-point squeaker between light-heavyweight winner Carrie Ledford Baldwin and heavyweight champ Sherry Smith. It was a classic case of lines vs. muscle. Smith was thicker, with more of everything, particularly in the leg department'and she was plenty shapely'but Carrie had her in the put-it-all-together department, and that tipped the votes in the newlywed's favor. Some wedding present. Lightweight winner Tara Guzman and middleweight topper Christina Moore had plenty to celebrate, but they weren't factors in this posedown.

With 43 competitors and the new light-heavyweight class, this show had a lot to offer.

Lightweight. In general, this class was strong on symmetry. The 112-pound Guzman, who came all the way from Seminole, Florida, to compete, was the proverbial everything officials often say women bodybuilders should be: firm but not stone hard; an excellent package of muscle, symmetry and separation'with no striations. It looked as if the more muscular'and more ripped'Tricia Travis would give Guzman some trouble, but, surprisingly, Travis ended up in fourth. Clearly this panel was into the proverbial.

In second, Pam Shealy displayed lovely muscle shapes, while third-placer Pam Wacher looked good in a back shot. Lori Ruggeria took fifth.

Middleweight. Moore was made of mostly hard muscle and was sliced up the sides of her legs. From the callouts it was clear that the 125 pounds of class mass from Cleveland was the judges' favorite; also that Southern California sensation Lisa Bickels and the very muscular Yvette Bova would make the top three. Bickels has a great package and oodles of potential. Bova has a tremendous physique with gobs of muscle, but she's a little top heavy in a way that doesn't help in the bodybuilding arena. She took second here, with Bickels in third; aesthetic Ellen Woodley, fourth; and Amy Neil, fifth.

Light Heavyweight. With heavy hitters like Heather Lee and Elena Seiple not making the trip to Vegas, this contest quickly came down to Oregon's Letford Baldwin and Arizona's Christine Sabo. They were close in some bodyparts'Sabo had a better back'but Carrie was more complete. She earned ones across the board to Christine's twos to take it unanimously. The solid Debbie Bramwell was solidly in third, while Cindy Johnson and Jennifer Gutierrez got the last two trophies.

Heavyweight. As for Smith, the 166-pound firefighter from Oklahoma scored a unanimous win in her best-ever condition. Also looking their very best were longtime USA competitors Yamile Marrero and Jayne Trcka, who moved up to second and third, respectively. With 16 contenders this was the longest lineup in the show. Gerri Deach took fourth and Anne Sheehan landed in fifth. Visit the IRON MAN Contest Site for the USA photos.

'04 NPC USA Fitness Championships

Overall: Bethani Terrell
Best Routine: Shiva Bagheri

1) Sabrina Gibson*
2) Brittany Thorsch*
3) Kristi Wills
4) Allison Daughtery
5) Nita Marquez

1) Bethani Terrell*
2) Kim Seeley*
3) Sandi Ward
4) Michelle Marciante
5) Nicole Rogers

1) Kristina Henn*
2) Tamara Sherrill*
3) Christina Golden
4) Luciana Bell
5) Laticia Jackson

*Earns pro card.

'04 NPC USA Women's Bodybuilding Championships

1) Tera Guzman
2) Pam Shealy
3) Beth Wachter
4) Tricia Travis
5) Lori Ruggeria
6) Lisa Fried

1) Christina Moore
2) Yvette Bova
3) Lisa Bickels
4) Ellen Woodley
5) Amy Neil
6) Wendy Chant
7) Tammi Flynn
8) Susan Kodaira
9) Cheri Owen
10) Colleen Williams
11) Nancy Davis

Light Heavyweight
1) Carrie Ledford Baldwin*
2) Chirstine Sabo
3) Debbie Bramwell
4) Cindy Johnson
5) Jennifer Gutierrez
6) Becky West
7) Carolyn Bryant
8) Tracey Coletti
9) Margaret Taylor

1) Sherry Smith
2) Yamile Marrero
3) Jayne Trcka
4) Gerri Deach
5) Anne Sheehan
6) Christi Carro
7) Sylvia Cowan
8) Mary Elizabeth Hobbs
9) Deniz A. Odar
10) Michelle Baker
11) Deb Widdis
12) Stefanie Schueler
13) Carla Daniele
14) Shelly Fields
15) Kristen Haug
16) Tama Bonner

*Earns pro card.

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