By Staff Sgt. Joel Pena, 10th Mountain Division JournalistJune 12, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Heroes rose and stars were born at this year's Strongest Warrior Competition, which drew 32 entrants -- 29 men and three women -- who displayed their mettle Saturday at the Alex Duffy Fairgrounds in Watertown.
The event, which was sponsored by the Fort Drum Chapter of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division, Inc., generates camaraderie between the civilian and military community. It also raises money for the association's Wounded Warrior Fund and college fund, which provides scholarships to military members and Family Members whose Soldier was killed or wounded in action.
"I'm excited about this year's event," event organizer Jeffrey A. Reynolds said during his opening remarks. "It's our third year, and it's because of you and all our great sponsors that we are able to do this every year. Thank you for coming out and supporting this event."
After a round of applause, the national anthem was played and the guest speaker for the event was introduced.
This year's guest speaker was Melissa Townsend, wife of Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division (LI), who is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
Melissa Townsend holds a bachelor of science in chemistry from North Georgia College and a bachelor of science in medical technology (clinical pathology) from the Medical College of Georgia. A U.S. Army Master Fitness Trainer, she also has participated in power lifting competitions and holds a black belt in tae kwon do, in which she has competed in regional and national tournaments.
"I'm honored to be here today," she said. "It's great to see the relationship between our civilians and the military community."
Townsend challenged the crowd present to challenge themselves and do something uncomfortable, even if it was training for a 5K run or going to the gym for the first time.
"It's not always about winning or losing, but about starting and finishing," she added. "Starting is a giant step, and sometimes starting is the hardest step. However, the feeling of accomplishment when you do finish is like the best feeling ever!
"There are days when I question my sanity and I want to say, 'forget this, I'm too old for this,' (or) 'this is really hard,' but I get up in the morning and I go for those long runs," she said. "I do PT during the week by running with the Soldiers, and that's very motivating."
After her speech and a round of applause, the competition began.
The woman's competition included two divisions this year: the light weight division (140 pounds and below) and the heavy weight division (141 pounds and above).
The men's competition had four divisions: light weight (175 pounds and below), middle weight (176 to 206 pounds), light heavy weight (207 to 237 pounds) and the heavy weight division (238 pounds and above).
Sweat dripped down competitors' foreheads and grunts could be heard as they tossed kegs of different sizes and weights over a 10-foot bar for women and a 15-foot bar for men as quickly as possible for 60 seconds, while the crowd cheered them on.
At the Inch / Circus BD Clean and Press station, competitors cleaned dumbbells weighing from 65 to 190 pounds, by picking them from the floor to their shoulders and then over their heads. They were allowed to use both arms to bring them to their shoulder, but they had to press and lock over their head using just one arm for 60 seconds to complete as many repetitions as possible.
The next event was the Carry Medley. At this station, female light weight competitors had to carry 100- to 125-pound kegs, a 145-pound sandbag and a "farmer" weighing up to 175 pounds for the women's heavy weight. Competitors had to carry all of the equipment a distance of 50 feet, within 60 seconds.
The men's Carry Medley event was the same as for the women, but the weight fluctuated between a 145-pound keg for the men's light weight to a 260-pound keg for the heavy weight competitors, 170-pound sandbag for the light weight to 285 pounds for the heavy weight, and "farmers" ranging from 200 to 315 pounds.
In the Dead Lift event, competitors lifted a standard barbell from a platform and locked out for as many repetitions as possible in 60 seconds. People yelled at the competitors to motivate them, as the wooden platform creaked under their feet from the 505-pound weight of the heavy weight barbell.
In the final event and one of the crowd's favorites, the Sled Drag / Prowler Push, athletes motivated each other by cheering and clapping, while their competition dragged a sled weighing up to 180 for the women's heavy weight and the men's heavy weight pushed a prowler weighing 435 pounds.
At the end of an exhausting competition, the winners of all weight classes were announced.
In the men's heavy weight division, Nathan Locke came in first; Tyler Hartman, second; and Duncan Poe, third. In the men's light heavy weight division, Jeffrey Toniatti came in first; Eric Olson, second; and Frank Klimjack third.
In the men's middle weight division, Ryan Parr, came in first; Lucas Byron, second; and Adam Gallagher, third. In the men's light weight division, John Bartholomeo came in first; John Hornberger, second; and Tyrell Tompins, third.
In the women's light weight division, Ashley Barnes won first place, while in the women's heavy weight division, Sabrina Silva claimed first place and Sussana Carey finished second.
One Soldier who was happy with his results was Staff Sgt. Jeffrey T. Toniatti, a cadre member with B Company, Warriors Transition Unit. Toniatti placed third in last year's event, but after entering similar events in New York City and Boston, he won first in the men's light heavy weight division.
"I feel great!" he said. "All that hard work I put in last year paid off."
Another Soldier whose hard work also paid off was Pfc. Sabrina Silva, 10th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, who won the woman's heavy weight division in her first Strongest Warrior Competition.
"My gym partner (and I) train every day to stay healthy and fit," Silva said. "Today we are here to support the Wounded Warrior Program. I loved it! I surprised myself by coming in first place."
After the award presentations, contestants posed for photographs.
Meanwhile, little children present could compete for prizes on a small course set up by the event planners.
The Strongest Warrior Competition raised approximately $15,000, which will be used for the Wounded Warrior Program and the Scholarship Program.
"No matter what mission you set for yourself, it's the fact that you started it and finished it that makes you a winner," Townsend said.