Record Number Of Contestants & Fans, Schlierkamp Highlights Pasadena Contest!
I've always had fun attending the NPC Bodybuilding.com Junior California Bodybuilding and Figure Championships, but last Saturday's event was the biggest and best yet.
The contest, promoted and emceed by IRON MAN Magazine journalist Lonnie Teper, produced a record 65 contestants, (nearly double from 2005) and about 1,000 fans in the audience at the pre-judging and finals at Sexson Auditorium on the campus of Pasadena City College.
Every year Teper brings in the biggest names in bodybuilding to guest pose, and this year was no different. After having Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler last year, Gunter Schlierkamp was the featured star this year. Schlierkamp, fourth in last year's Mr. Olympia, said he was weighing about 325 pounds and, when asked by Teper who was going to win this year's Olympia, he paused, looked at the audience and said "GS".
One of the many highlights on the night was when Derik Farnsworth, at 5'2" and about 160 pounds, joined Gunter on stage in a posedown. Farnsworth walked on stage right after Teper asked the crowd, "Can you imagine anybody wanting to stage on stage next to this giant?"
Cathy LeFrancois also was a surprise guest poser, opening up the second half of the contest, and Teper asked the crowd if Cathy, a former bodybuilding champion who turned to Figure two years ago, should return to bodybuilding or remain in Figure. The fans overwhelmingly voted for Cathy's return to the bodybuilding stage, which she said she'd do in a few months.
An interesting twist has developed at the Junior Cal in the past two years; last year Chris Snell returned to the stage after nearly an eight-year absence from competing and dominated the contest with three wins. This year Darren Telfair, 39, who has not competed in 10 years, made Teper's show his comeback site and evolved with both the Heavyweight title and the Overall crown. Telfair was in great condition at about 240 pounds and featured great biceps and abs.
Telfair's win, however, was not an easy one as the contest produced outstanding class winners in Carlos Pinto (LHW), Darren Roberts (MW) and Dan Abell (LW). The Lightheavyweight class was the toughest of the entire contest, with all top five guys displaying outstanding physiques. Also very impressive was George Thibault, a strong second to Roberts. Thibault, second in his class at the Cal a week earlier, is approaching his 40th birthday.
Mike Salcido, who took both the Collegiate and Novice Middleweight titles, finished second to Telfair, with Jose Venegas in third, David Lopez in fourth and Steven Moshi in fifth. Salcido, a 22-year old from Mt. San Antonio College, ended a great night by being named the winner of the "Most Muscular" title.
Teenage sensation Justin Hunter, who won that class at the California State contest one week earlier, came back to duplicate that feat in Pasadena. The class featured six competitors after having only two a year ago.
Rising star Will Quinonez, a 22-year-old from Montebello, won the Novice Overall, beating Salcido and Abell in the posedown. Gene Bukovi (40 plus) and Vincent Cablayan (50 plus) were the Masters winners.
Javier Vargas had a good physique and an even better posing routine as "Pop Lock" (a nickname given by Teper during the show) won the "Best Poser" category.
In the Women's divisions, Sherlyn Roy, coming off a victory in the Fitness division of the 'Cal, and a runner-up finish to Overall Figure champion Mona Lisa Reyes, took both the A division and the Overall Figure title. The A class was particularly outstanding, with 10 competitors alone in this year (there were nine total figure competitors a year ago, according to Teper).
Christine Baranda and Michelle Abraminko won the B and C divisions, respectively, before falling to Roy in the battle for the Overall. Baranda also took the Masters 35 and over class, while Ariane Richens topped the class of five in the 45 and over category.
The amazing Diana Feather, a 42-year-old mother of five, won the Unlimited Women's Bodybuilding crown, and also was honored with a "Best Poser" trophy. Dallas Malloy made her bodybuilding debut with a victory in the Collegiate class, and finished second to Feather in the Unlimited division.
Competitors came from five different states to compete; Linda Reho (second to Baranda in Figure B) traveled 2,000 miles from Cleveland, Ohio to get on stage to win the honor of the athlete coming the farthest.
"Needless to say, I'm extremely pleased with the outcome of this contest," said Teper moments after the show concluded. "I've always said that 60 contestants and 600 at the finals were my goals, and both were surpassed. Plus, I'd have to say the overall quality of the contestants was the best ever - a lot of these people can go on to do very, very well in other NPC shows this year, and I hope they do compete more this year.
"Some people think the name Junior Cal implies my contest is not that high of caliber. Anyone who was here tonight, or who sees the pictures from the show, will know that is far from the truth."
"I've had some great champions in the past, like Ray Arde, Masae Parker and Mary Jo Cooke, and I think a lot of people in this year's contest will be very successful in future contests."
"Even though the contest numbers had been going down a bit in recent years, Russ DeLuca stuck by me, and continued to be my title sponsor. A lot of the other companies who have supported me for years also hung in there, and I got several new sponsors this year that believed in the show. One of them, Chris Abasta of Krossbelts, donated five customed made leather belts to the winners of the Men's Open and Novice divisions, the Teenage category, and the Women's Figure and Bodybuilding."
"All in all, it was all I could hope for, and more. Now, time to get working on next year!"