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Never Say Die!

Especially when your life revolved around preparing for a bodybuilding contest for 15 weeks and you don't place as well as you would have liked.

Disappointment is hard to deal with. Especially when your life revolved around preparing for a bodybuilding contest for 15 weeks and you don't place as well as you would have liked.

My fourth place finish in the Men's Novice Division and my 2nd place finish in the Mr. Evansville division at the INBF Mid-America Muscle Classic were big disappointments to me. Despite the fact that the judges called this "the best lineup of natural amateurs" they had ever seen ... I was still disappointed.

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After The Mid-America

For days after the contest I was very down on myself. I didn't go out with my friends. I wasn't even focusing much on the contest I had the next week in Tennessee ... I didn't even want to do it at that point. I said to myself what's the point, I'm a loser I don't deserve to compete. However, on Tuesday I got a big boost.

I saw the pictures of myself from the contest. When I saw them I was shocked - I looked great! I didn't do as badly as I thought. In fact, I hung with everyone on size, but being the youngest competitor onstage I didn't have the muscle maturity or hardness of the other competitors.

Do Something

That night when I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep I kept thinking about my placing and then something snapped inside myself ... I started talking to myself ... literally. Quit your damned whining, Layne ... so you didn't place like you wanted to at your first contest ... you still have one more contest to do so if you didn't like your first placing ... Do something about it at this contest!

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I also found inspiration thinking of my great grandfather who had passed away the previous week, I told myself I was going to do well at my next contest for him, as well as myself. That was it, that was all I needed, from that moment on I became machine I was totally focused. The rest of the week I didn't think about anything other than the SNBF Tennessee Supernatural Championships.

When I Left

My father and I left Friday at noon for Murfreesboro, TN where the contest was being held. We arrived with about an hour to spare before I had to take my polygraph test. We unpacked, and I ate a chicken breast and then it was time for me to take my polygraph test. Before my polygraph test, I went to register and to make sure that I was cleared to compete.

I had a chance to meet Bruce and Carol Johnson, the owners of the SNBF. I found them to be nice people who truly love the sport of bodybuilding and are doing their best to promote natural bodybuilding.

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Supernatural Bodybuilding & Fitness. Visit their official website for more information.

While I was there Bruce convinced me to do the open class as well as the novice. I was a bit apprehensive about doing it but he told me that I would do fine, so I figured ... why not, it's time to see what I have.

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I Looked Great

I was noticeably harder than I was the night before my show the previous week ... I looked great. I was confident about my chances. I posed for another hour and then I ate again and took a shower to rinse off the excess ProTan. My father and I then relaxed and watched some movies before it was time to go to bed.

I didn't get much sleep that night ... I was too excited, I couldn't get over the fact that I was going to do an open show. Of course the fact that my father snores extremely loud may have been the major reason I didn't get much sleep. Either way, I woke up at 4 a.m. and started my carb up with some raisins.

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I went back to sleep after my first carb up and then woke up at 6 a.m. again to eat more raisins. At this point, I was too excited to go back to sleep and I went downstairs and bought a newspaper to read to keep me occupied. I must have read that paper 5 times trying to keep myself occupied, but finally 2½ hours had past, and it was time for me to go to the competitors meeting.

Competitors Meeting

My father dropped me off at the competitors meeting and then went out to get some breakfast. When I arrived at the competitors meeting I met up with none other than writer John Gray once again. (John had also competed at my previous contest). We chatted for awhile and then the competitors meeting began. After the competitors meeting I had a chance to meet John's wife and his baby daughter.

John Gray and baby
Click Image To Enlarge.
John Gray And Baby.

I would like to take the time to say that John is a very nice guy and has a beautiful family (cute baby) and I wish him and his family all the best. We talked for a short bit after meeting them and then John and I headed backstage to get ready for prejudging.

John Gray

When John took off his shirt I was shocked, he was way more ripped than last week, he had vascularity everywhere ... even in his lower back! I commented on how much better he looked and he told me that I also looked a lot better than the previous week which made me feel much better.

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After we checked out our competition in the novice class John and I figured that he and I would probably be fighting in it out for the overall Novice crown. There were a few good competitors but they weren't as sharp as John and I were, probably because John and I had a bit more practice and this was their first contest.


Prejudging went by quickly as the judges were calling poses quickly. John and I were both confident in our chances and it showed in our posing. The open class would prove much more competitive. I was competing in the tall class and John was in the short class.

One of the competitors in John's class was absolutely ripped to shreds and looked like a roadmap and I knew that he was going to give John a tough time. My class wasn't as near as competitive and I was confident I could win it, but I wasn't sure how I'd hold up in the overall.

After Prejudging

After Prejudging, I went down into the audience to meet up with my dad. He introduced me to a lady who he had been talking with who was from the message boards. It was missixpack56 from the forums! She introduced herself as Stasia Bachrach and we chatted for a short while. She was extremely nice and in great shape.

Wow, she wasn't kidding with her message board name. She told me that I was doing great and that I looked like I was having the most fun out of anyone else onstage. I thanked her for coming and encouraged her to compete in next year's event. Dad and I then decided it was time to get something to eat.

I told him that I could go for some Mexican food and he agreed. I had grilled chicken and rice. But I must have eaten 3 bowls of corn chips and salsa! I stopped myself before I binged too much as I thought that I might be going for an overall crown that night and I didn't want to be bloated onstage. After lunch, Dad and I packed up our stuff and moved out of the hotel.

We still had another 4 hours to go until the night show so we decided to catch a movie. After the movie we went back to the theatre to get ready for the night show. My father encouraged me by telling me that I looked much better than last week and that I should stop worrying and go out and have fun.

On Stage

I was one of the first people to do my routine and it went perfectly. I went nuts onstage and I think the fans ate it up ... either way, I know I was living it up and having a great time! My class (Men's Novice Middleweights) was finally called out for the trophy presentation.

As I had done at my first contest, I put my head down and closed my eyes as they read the placings ... and the 2002 Tennessee Supernatural Men's Novice Middleweight champion is ... Layne Norton! I smiled and clenched my fist and said 'yes!' quietly to myself and then graciously accepted my trophy.

John was announced the winner of the lightweight class and they then called us back out for the pose down to decide the overall. How fitting I thought to myself, two writers going head to head, this will make a great article! I figured I had John a little bit in the size department but he was a little bit sharper and harder than I was. This ultimately proved to be the deciding factor as John took the overall crown, and rightfully so.

Open Class Winners

Next up was the announcement of the open class winners. John came in second in his class to the man who would eventually win the overall open class title.

I won my class and posed down with the short and medium class winners. It was not close though, the guy who won the overall was shredded beyond belief and much harder than me. But I wasn't distressed, I knew he was much older than me, and that I was far from my peak in terms of bodybuilding potential.

After the contest, I went backstage and packed up my stuff and got ready to leave. It was 9 o'clock and I still wanted to get some dinner before I left to go home, and that would be a 2½ hour drive. I congratulated John and wished him the best of luck and told him I hoped to see him next year.

He did the same and we both left. Dad and I then went to Red Lobster where I proceeded to consume ½ crab legs, 18 shrimp, 1 lobster tail, a huge salad, and an untold number of rolls. We then departed for home.

My stomach was full, my goals were fulfilled for this year and I was completely at ease. If I had learned anything from this whole experience it was to never ever give up ... Sometimes it's darkest just before dawn!

Special Thanks

I'd like to thank everyone who made this possible and those who made it a great experience. My family: you guys are the greatest, I couldn't have asked for a better and more loving family.

My grandparents
Andrea Hargrove
Ted Fletcher, a great workout partner and a better friend
Aaron Zinn
Matt Medieros (for putting up with my low carb mood swings)

Jay, Pete, Tony, Vin, Anthony and the whole crew.

Skip "I have a ripped six-pack and you don't" Podar, all my buddies on the message boards, Big Cat, Par Deus, John Gray, Stasia Bachrach, Dr. Joe Klemczewski, Ryan DeLuca and the whole staff - You guys fricken rock!

R.I.P. to my grandfather (Mr. G) and to Berkley Branson even though you both are gone, you still motivate me to be better in everything I do!

If I missed someone, it is because I am short of memory, not of appreciation.