Thursday, May 16, 2002

Teens find contest fun, but grueling

By Michael D. Clark,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — First, Ryan Jarrett frantically swung a giant hammer, repeatedly smacking a heavy weight to inch it along a horizontal track.

[photo] Middletown High School freshman Kendric Roberts strains as he pushes over a tractor tire as part of the “Men of Steel” competition.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        Then the Middletown High School junior sprinted over to a car parked in neutral and pushed it 25 yards. The 6-foot, 270-pound defensive tackle for the Middies then carried two 80-pound hand weights 25 yards, dragged a 165-pound fire department training dummy back the same distance, tossed a punching bag over his shoulder for another round, and then pushed a blocking sled a final 25 yards.

        Exhausted, heaving and sprawled on the ground, 16-year-old Ryan took some satisfaction in knowing that at that point, he was a third of the way through the grueling ordeal that is Middletown's annual “Men of Steel” competition.

        Inspired by popular TV shows in which massive men from various countries compete in a series of unusual tests of strength and endurance, the Men of Steel contest attracted more than 80 boys from Middletown and five other Butler County area high schools.

        Ryan, a fan of the TV shows, gulped air and surveyed his immediate future of pain. A short distance away, boys of various physiques — in four size and age categories — were struggling to toss huge truck tires end over end.

        “This was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Now I really respect those guys on TV,” said Ryan. “But it's still fun.”

        That's one of the main goals, explained Middletown football coach and athletic director Eric Tudor, who helped start the competition last year. The Men of Steel title reflects the school's proud association with the Middletown-based AK Steel.

        “It's fun and it's a team-building exercise,” Mr. Tudor said, in reference to the high school squads from Monroe, Fenwick, New Miami, Edgewood and Preble Shawnee.

        “Plus it brings up the tedium of training in the weight room,” he said.


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