GOSHEN, Ind. – Next year they might just name it after her.
For the second consecutive year, Ashford University Assistant Track and Field Coach Sheena James proved that her strength could not be bested, even among some of the best competition in the midwest. James dominated all challengers in the women's division of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Strongman Competition, collecting her second piece of hardware in as many years.
"I think it was tougher this year," reflected James. "It was basically the same group of women from last year and they improved a lot during the year. It made it fun, seeing the same faces from year-to-year, nice to have them cheering for me and for me to be able to do the same."
Although the bonds of the competitors may have grown from last year to this year, once the competition began, some of the pleasantries were extinguished.
"They were gunning for me," laughed James. "One of the other competitors recently opened up her own cross-fit gym and told me she would see me next year. Hopefully the same women will return, but it would be nice to have more people enter. It's a really fun time."
In just over two minutes of total activity, James drug a tractor 75 feet down a paved lane and carried a pair of 130 lb. kegs up a steep hill, one-by-one, before heaving them up on a four foot platform. To cap off the competition, she pulled a weighted sled up the same hill as in the Keg Carry event before dominating the final all-encompassing obstacle course which combined portions of the previous three events.
In the final test, contestants carried two 100 lb. cement-weighted buckets 60 feet, pulled a weighted sled backwards to a distance of 50 feet before flipping a 400 lb. tire eight times to reach a distance of approximately 50 feet. Each event is worth ten points and is timed in two-person heats.
Anyone that knows James would be able to tell you what her favorite event is, the one that involves the most work.
"The obstacle course is my favorite but it's tough. It's difficult because you've been out in the sun all day, so you're already drained, then you have to deal with that tire," chuckled James.
"The toughest one for me is the keg carry," she added. "It takes the most energy and you don't expect it, but lifting those kegs to sit on the platform after carrying them up the hill is a challenge. Your arms feel like rubber after the first one, then you still have one more to go."
James completed the tractor pull is 24 seconds, finished the Keg Carry in 30 seconds, worked through the Sled Pull in just over 11 seconds and capped off her championship run by stopping the Obstacle Course watch in 1:07. Three of the four times became personal records while her Keg Carry time tied the mark from a year ago.
"I'm hoping just to lower my times next year," said James. "I want to win, but it's important for me to improve every year. This year we pulled a heavier tractor and I lowered my time by three seconds over last year, stuff like that means a lot to me."
A former Big Ten Conference champion in shot put during her collegiate career at Purdue University and Drake Relays and State Champion during her prep days at Clinton High School, James is entering her fifth season as a track and field coach at Ashford University. She is also responsible for the strength and conditioning of AU student-athletes.
As for a three-peat?
"I'll be back," smiled James. "Shooting for three-in-a-row."