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Mark Hits the Mark at the ‘Cal; Record Numbers Hit Stage

Had busy Saturday this week; went to the ‘Cal prejudging in the morning, then emceed the finals at night. And, it was a dandy. A record 170-plus competitors hit the stage at the Veterans Auditorium in Culver City (not counting the California Pro Figure event) and, when it was over, big Mark Byers came away with the grand prize as he took the Superheavyweight and Overall crowns.

Mark Byers, photo by socalphotographerGot my first look at Mark last summer when he won the Flex Wheeler Classic in Fresno, so I knew Byers had to be a contender for this show when I saw him at the check-in’s in the morning. Byers toppled a strong field to become the latest winner of the prestigious event, co-promoted by Jon Lindsay and Steve O’Brien, which was open to contestants from all over the United States for the first time.

About 25 out of staters flew in to strut their stuff in front of the Los Angeles fans and media; for Denver’s Sara Hurrle it was well worth the trip, as she won the NPC Figure Overall. See what being an LT Rising Star, and leg training partner of Isaac (Lifter) Hinds, does for you?

I’ve known Jeff Dwelle for some time and was glad to see the personal trainer/judge from Dallas, Texas get on stage at the ‘Cal. Jeff, a frequent member of the pages of IRON MAN over the year, took the Heavyweight class. See ya at your familiar seat at the judges table at the Lone Star on June 7, Jeff.

Congrats also to the other class winners: Young Joo Son (LHW); Moji Oluwa (MW), Ralph Gaxiola (WW and Masters 40 and over), Michael Manibog (LW) and Alden Gamet (BW). Also, thumbs up to Women’s Bodybuilding champ Julie Assa.

As always, the ‘Cal ended up being a Who’s Who in Bodybuilding as far as attendees. Let’s see, for starters, NPC Prez Jim Manion was there, and son JM was at his usual post of shooting the contest for the NPC News. Shawn Ray and Richard Jones, who won this contest in 1987 and 1997, respectively, were also in the house. Shawn reminded Manion it was 21 years ago that he took the title as a 21-year-old. Jim remembered–we were all at the Wiltern Theatre, and a kid named Chris Cormier won the Teenage crown.

That same year Shawn went on to become the youngest NPC champion ever, a month past his 22nd birthday. A mark that still stands, by the way. And, a fact that I reminded New Jersey resident Bob Bonham (in town with his girl, Brenda Kelly) about, since Bob bet me that New Jersey physique Phil Hill would best Ray at the Atlantic City Nationals. Okay, Bob didn’t bet me, but a guy named “Sweet Pea” did, and he was from ‘Jersey, so what’s the difference?

Other “stars” in attendance: Silveo Samuel, Bob Chicerillo (at the booth), Pete Ciccone, Derik Farnsworth, Alex Azarian, “The Experts” team member Ron (Getting Bigger) Avidan, Adela Garcia and Sonia Adcock, repping GNC….oh, Figure International champion Gina (Calves) Alioti was one of the magistrates, presided over by head judge John Tuman. Silveo, my Bodybuilder of the Year for 2007, is competing in the Houston Pro on July 4, so you KNOW I had him take off the shirt and hit some poses for the delighted audience. Samuel’s in great shape; mark him down as the early favorite for the Texas event.

Brandon Curry was there, and this year’s USA favorite told me he has moved from Tennessee to San Diego; last year’s Women’s Nationals champion, Kristy Hawkins, was in the audience. So was IRON MAN’s Jerry Brainum (and Jerry Fredrick with his camera), Bill Grant, current NPC IRON MAN winner (and the featured layout in the July issue) Danielle Edmonds. Danielle is preparing for next month’s Junior Nationals in Chicago which, by the way, are being held the same day as my Junior Cal at Pasadena City College.

Hey, there are way too many names to mention, so I’ll stop here. Don’t mean to slight anybody, but at a show like the ‘Cal, where the place is filled with celebs, it’s impossible to run down even half the list. Got an idea…if you’re curious, go next year and see for yourself.

I’m tired. Have to go, on the way out to the Westside again Monday morning for the Muscle Beach Memorial Day finals. Check back later for video interviews I’ll be doing from Venice.

Until then, have a happy holiday, and don’t forget to spend a minute remebering what his holiday is really all about–giving thanks to those who gave their lives so we could continue to enjoy ours.

Instantized Creatine- Gains In Bulk

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