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2017 Strongest Mountaineers Crowned

By Vincent Powell

Morgantown— Strength is a characteristic found in every mountaineer. On Sunday, August 27, the Student Recreation Center hosted a weightlifting competition to find the strongest.

The third annual Strongest Mountaineer competition entertained a variety of lifters pooled from students at West Virginia University. While 22 participants had registered, just 14 showed up to take the challenge.

The event was divided into 4 stages: the squat, deadlift, bench press and farmers walk. While each lift provided its own unique struggle, many of the participants showed remarkable aptitude in all of the categories.

Before its commencement, the officials gave a briefing on the rules and regulations; something more solidified than in years past. This year, the event came with four pages of rules, making for a more regimented dynamic than years prior.

“We do put in a lot of work on the back end making sure that rules stay up to date. We look at what our experiences were last year to see if we need to make adjustments,” said Jay Stewart, head official.

As the first heat began, the lower fitness center maintained a calm composure. Each pair of lifters approached their respective stations as the Strongest Mountaineer began. Male and female competitors had to lift a certain percent of their body weight ranging anywhere from 75% to 135% based on the event.

Since the required percentages varied from male to female, it was only fair to have two winners. Among the competitors was Aaron Sealey, who knew a thing—or two—about winning.

Coming off of a hamstring injury, the two-time Strongest Mountaineer was hopeful for a third title.

“I’m going to try to pace myself and not mess anything up. I gotta be careful on this leg. It looks like there’s a lot of guys here that can give me a run for my money…should be a good competition” said Sealey.  

As the humble Sealey began his heat, the gym was alive with both new and returning faces. Veterans knew what to expect; the newcomers eager to learn.

"I'm in the gym all the time and I saw the posters. I competed last year so I was looking forward doing it again this year,” said Alexis Soltow, a WVU junior.

Looking especially strong on the squat, newcomer Brock Gresock was all smiles.

“I’ve never done this before so it’s really neat that WVU offers this. I like competing and this is something competitive to do,” Gresock said.

Happy with his performance, Gresock remarked that he plans to return to the Strongest Mountaineer next year.

Strongest Mountaineer 2017

As the final heat concluded, the athletes, many of whom friends, gathered in a period of rest, awaiting the final tally. In the end, it was Sealey and Soltow who won the overall. Both lifters swept the competition, each taking three of the four events.

From the three-time champion to the newly crowned victor, both champions explained that winning is more than what’s on the surface.

“You have to be ready to feel pretty bad sometimes. As long as you're consistent and are ready to go through a little bit of pain, you'll do well with it,” Sealey said.

Soltow similarly explained that this kind of win takes hours of hard work and dedication in the gym. Being a minority in an activity dominated by men, Soltow has never flinched.

“No matter what, I love it. Women are strong, I’m strong, and that’s how I feel about it,” Soltow remarked.

The pair was awarded dietary supplements and GNC gift cards. With the Strongest Mountaineer competition growing every year, both lifters encouraged participating in event next fall.

Vincent Powell is a Staff Writer and Sports Journalist for WVU Campus Recreation

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