With a show this big and
with so many excellent physiques all battling for that same winner's
spot, it was inevitable that there would be some surprising decisions,
and some feelings would get hurt. This being a sport that in the end is
totally subjective and really just a matter of opinion, in the end only
the winners and their friends and families are ever truly satisfied
with the outcome.
Here's a prime example of a
class where I had the results quite different from the judges. I
thought it was between Barbara Fletcher and Kirstyn Haratyk for the
win, but it actually went to the only woman competing who I actually
know, New Hampshire's Lori Steele. Lori pulled it off with very
balanced overall development and great condition. Congrats to her on
earning pro status.
I thought this one was a
coin toss between Janet Kaufmann and Lisette Acevedo. Both would have
made great pro's. Janet carried more size and had better color and
presentation, but Lisette did have the superior shape and structure.
Lisette got the nod and the IFBB Pro card.
Runner-up LaDawn Toniko
McDay had a very dramatic V-taper thanks to her wide back and
shoulders, and also happened to have a little bit of the Tyra Banks
look going in her face. Winner Nicole Berg was also a striking woman,
and her shape and symmetry were enough to take this very large and
I and many others thought
Amber DeFrancesco had this class locked up after this morning's
prejudging, but the strong opposition she faced from Kris Murrell, who
was also an excellent poser, apparently proved to be too much. Once I
paid more attention to Kris tonight, I realized she was probably the
more obvious choice. Amber's condition seemed to have faded from this
morning, and I would be curious to know how close the two had been
leading into the night show, to find out if that made the difference.
In what had to be a tough
choice for the judges to choose between four very worthy class winners,
Kris Murrell became the Overall NPC National Champion.
No surprise here, as Hany
Rambod created another pro in the form of Oregon's Bleu Taylor. Though
runner-up Chris Darby had more mass, Bleu had the structure and shape
to beat him.
In the lights, I thought
the excellent mass, shape and structure of Puerto Rico's Luis Santa
would take him to a pro card. But it turned out to be Joe Vu of Texas
with his crazy quads and crisp, clean muscle separation who got the nod
from the judges. This is a man who has a longer, leaner look but seems
to grow when he hits his poses.
Dr. Victor Prisk used his
excellent upper body development and shredded condition to carry him
all the way to second place out of 26 welters, and also wowed the crowd
with some stunning displays of strength from his days as a national
gymnastics champion. A little more leg development and this orthopedic
surgeon from Pittsburgh can add "IFBB Pro" to the M.D. on the end of
his name. But as predicted after last night's judging, Hawaii's Shavis
Higa followed up his previous USA wins as a bantamweight and
lightweight with a middleweight victory here. With his shape and
excellent legs, Shavis could successfully jump into the 202's a year
Puerto Rico's Ronald
Torres, now living in Texas, is future pro in the making, whose size
and classical shape reminded me a lot of another great Latin
bodybuilder, Lee Labrada. His coach George Farah confided to me that a
bout with the flu earlier in the week took away some of his condition.
That didn't explain his lack of proper contest color. Darker color and
perfect condition next time, and I don't see too many people out there
capable of beating him in this class. The standout from last night's
judging in this class was Washington's Nathan DeTracy, and he most
likely won with all first place votes. The man had great back and leg
development and crazy striations all over.
As I figured from last
night's judging, Branden Ray's lack of sharp condition from the back
big-time, and the two-time runner up at this class at the USA and
Nationals was knocked down to fourth here. I have a suspicion he knew
it after last night, because his smooth look tonight leads me to
believe he may have been chowing down all day today. He looked to have
put on at least five pounds of water under the skin if not closer to
ten. Tamer El-Guindy went from first at the USA to third here, and it
was simply a matter of tougher competition. Tamer knows he needs more
arms and chest to match his enormous shoulders before he is ready for
the pro ranks. The runner-up was Orlando, Florida's Al Auguste, who is
another easy bet for future pro status. He really has it all: size,
shape, and only needed a little more leg development and slightly drier
condition to graduate out of the NPC and into the IFBB. The class went
to MD's own Seth Feroce, in his Nationals debut after starting to
compete only in the spring of this year. He also happened to be
celebrating his 25th birthday today, so how's that for a present?
Congrats to Seth and his coach, Hany Rambod on a job well done. Seth
was thick, had muscle maturity beyond his years, and was shredded to
Special mention should be
made to fourth place finisher P.D. Devers, who literally brought the
house down with a high-energy posing routine with plenty of hip-hop
dance moves. I haven't seen a crowd so entertained by a routine since
Kai's at the Arnold back in March. Third place finisher Fred Smalls
needs only to get harder next time and I can see him going pro. The top
two came down to Lee Banks, who has already missed winning his class at
three pro qualifiers in a row. I learned that he would have been eight
pounds heavier had he too not fallen victim to the flu a week ago. I
still thought he was good enough, given the circumstances, to win the
class, though I could also see New Jersey's Jeff Long pushing him hard
with legs that blew Lee's away by a mile, and slightly better
condition. The judges went with Jeff Long, and though Lee Banks was
devastated, I didn't hear much argument from the crowd with this call.
With better legs, Banks probably would be a pro right now.
Anyone at last night's
judging knew that Cedric McMillan, last year's Junior USA champ, had
this class by a wide margin. Again, I would bet money he won it with
unanimous first place votes. Towering over most of the others at 6-1,
he had so much round, full muscle set off by tiny joints and a waist as
small as most of the middleweights that he was an easy pick. Even
runner-up Robert Burneika, one of the freakiest mass monsters I have
seen in the amateur ranks in years, never had a chance.
When the seven class
winners lined up, Cedric McMillan stood out as the man who is likely to
go on to be the best pro, which is really how the Overall Champion is
selected. At only 255 pounds right now, Cedric has the big frame to
fill out with at least another 15-20 pounds and has all the markings of
a man who will be a top pro in the coming years.
Congratulations to all 520
athletes who worked so hard to be here this weekend in Florida. It was
a great end to the 2009 amateur season, and they should all be proud to
have stood up there with the very best in our great nation