Text and Photos by Mark Mason
It was fitting that the first National Physique Committee Champion Lee Haney was on-hand to present the 2007 over all winner, Evan Centopani, with its twenty fifth-anniversary award. Haney, who went on to win the coveted Mr. Olympia award for eight straight years, gave NPC President Jim Manion accolades for creating a foundation to build his competitive career upon. A quarter century later the NPC’s role in the advancement of the sports of bodybuilding, fitness and figure is still unprecedented.
Although anniversaries are traditionally a time for nostalgia super heavyweight and overall winner Evan Centopani had no time for sentimentalities. The two hundred and forty pound Bay State Brawler came to Dallas for one reason and one reason only: To end rumors that he was nothing more then the latest “next big thing’ hype of the industry.
Garnering ten of the eleven judges first place votes in his class and all of the hearts and minds of the capacity crowd at the Fairmont Hotel, Centopani soundly stated his case.
The evening did not unfold without some surprises however. In the light-heavyweight class golden boy Peter Putnam was soundly defeated by South Carolina’s Charles “ROC” Dixon. Putnam has been receiving a lion’s share of press since his near miss in July at the USA Championships. No matter. Dixon receives his pro card and Putnam is relegated to return to try again next year, which he will no doubt do.
Another shocker was Brandon Curry’s eleven point trouncing by Adorthus Cherry in the heavyweight class. There is no denying that Cherry has a phenomenal physique but he will be forever plagued with his torn right pec. Curry on the other hand has nowhere to go but up.
He came to the Big D in great condition and his biceps and delts are some of the best in the amateur ranks. Cherry’s momentum from the past few years carried him to victory but I suspect we have not seen the last of the battle between Cherry and Curry.
Jose Raymond’s victory in the middleweight class was one decision that was undisputed. Raymond may have had the most flawless physique of the evening and his free posing routine was outstanding.
The single points separating the 1-2-3 finishes between Carlo Filippone, Stoil Stoilov, and Tommie Robertson in the welterweight division shows the challenge of judging physiques of such a high caliber as in the NPC Nationals.
Another close match up was in the lightweight division between Leonardo Ortiz and Travis Rogers with Ortiz coming out on top by two points. Ortiz was just one of several in the Puerto Rican coalition who came ashore to shake things up in the Lone Star State.
Pittsburgh’s number one son, David Candy came back from last years near miss in Miami to claim a resounding victory in the bantamweight class and return home with his long overdue pro card.
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Ohioan Monty Mabry. Mabry took fourth place in the light heavyweights but he secured his place in history as, in my opinion, the best poster of the evening. He interpreted a dozen of bodybuilding’s most classic poses so captivated the house that is was brought to a hush.
With the advent of figure and the “masculinization” of women’s physiques female bodybuilding has been on a steady decline. This year at the Nationals we may have seen a shift in that trend. On stage in Dallas a majority of the women, although muscular and conditioned, maintained a curvy and feminine look.
Lightweight winner Beni Lopez displayed exactly the type of package that the judges were looking for. Weighing in a barely over one hundred pounds her musculature was in perfect symmetry with her height and bone structure.
Her next closest competitor was Galina Serchtiev who finished a solid seven points behind. The blond haired Floridian exhibited a fine physique and with added size to her upper arms could definitely be a threat in the lightweights next season.
Thunderous applause greeted the Texan middleweight Tina Chandler. Chandler came close to her pro card in 2006 by winner her weight class at the USAs. This year was her year to make good.
Dallas resident and recent Texas State champion Yasha was not to be out done by Chandler. Yasha’s eclectic posing routine brought the fans to life dancing and swaying to the African rhythms.
Third place Janet Kaufman traveled all the way from Idaho to place a respectable third in the class.
The fight for the light heavyweight award was between Californian Kristy Hawkins and Carolinian Britt Ashley Miller. It was another one point decision for the judges. Both ladies looked fantastic but it was the cross striations on Hawkins’ quads that gave her the edge.
In the women heavyweight class it was Beverly DiRenzo all the way. DiRenzo has steadily moved up the ranks taking sixth at the 2005 Nationals and second at the 2006.
Second place winner Nicole Hamrick presented herself well and deserves the best smile award. She looked plain tickled to be sharing the stage with the likes of DiRenzo and third place Michele Neil.
The women’s bodybuilding overall was one of the best in recent years. Each woman displayed the perfect combination of size, symmetry and conditioning. It was not so much the flaws of any one physique that came out in the comparison round but the strong points of Kristy Hawkins.
Her shoulders were wide and full, her back was a perfect balance of thickness and definition and her glutes, quads and triceps were cross striated. Conditioning was the order of the evening in women’s bodybuilding as Kristy Hawkins was declared the 2007 women’s overall national champion.
IFBB pro Lisa Aukland presented a special award to writer and photographer extraordinaire Steve Wennerstrom. Citing his unparalleled work promoting the sport of women’s bodybuilding. Aukland thanked Steve for his efforts in bringing the world of women’s bodybuilding to those intimate as well as in the mainstream. Steve is known as the IFBB women’s historian, editor of Women’s Physique World and as a writer for both Flex and Ironman Magazines.
One of the most anticipated events of the 2007 Nationals was this year’s fitness competition. Two women in each class would be awarded pro cards. This incentive served to bring out the best and brightest of a sport that is on the brink of extinction. Thanks to the tireless work of several IFBB fitness pros and the talent of competitors in D-Town the revival of the sport is guaranteed.
Kristina Rojas was the dominant force in the Fitness A class. She won both swimsuit rounds and placed a strong second in the routine not to mention that it sounded like she brought half of hometown McAllen, Texas to cheer her on.
All-American girl Tonya Burkhardt wore her heart on her sleeve and the stars and stripes on her back as she leaped, danced and powered her way to second place. Third place winner was hometowner Breean Robinson.
In the Fitness B class it was that Dazzling Doll from Alexandria, Virginia, Tina Durkin who wowed the crowd with one of the most aggressive routines of the show. Durkin’s hang time on a few of her aerial assaults had to have been some kind of record.
Second place went to fellow Virginian Siene Silva. Silva scored high in the physique rounds and with further progress on her routine could be next in line for a pro card.
In spite of a fourth place finish in the routine round Tanya Merryman’s near perfect physique was more then enough to insure her victory in the Fitness C. And that is no snub at Merryman. The C class boasted some phenomenal fitness routines.
Jo Marriner displayed some Olympic caliber gymnastics in both her strength and flexibility moves as well as executing a couple rapid-fire floor movements that had MC Lonnie Teper jumping for cover.
Leigh Koester who failed to make the top five demonstrated another exceptional routine. Her combination of hip hop dance moves, brute strength and charismatic stage persona brought one of the loudest responses of the night.
As head judge Sandy Williamson took Rojas, Durkin, and Merryman through the quarter turns the judges began their arduous task of picking one winner. It became evident as Williamson moved the three around several times that the decision would not come easy. Alas there can only be one winner. And that winner was Tina Durkin.
The 2008 NPC Nationals will mark the beginning of its second twenty-five year history. And while reviewing the photos and reading the commentary on Bodybuilding.com is a luxury that wasn’t available a few short years ago there is nothing like experiencing it in person. Mark your calendars and make a point to attend next year’s show which will be held in the Dogwood City, Atlanta, Georgia.