R.U. Strong? Rutgers Students Compete to Find Out

Competitors prepare to compete in the Atlas Stones and Titan Carry events at R.U. Strong. Photo by Dylan Saccoccio

by Dylan Saccoccio

The athletes of R.U. Strong come in all shapes and sizes.

An annual competition of strength and athleticism hosted by Rutgers Recreation, the Feb. 22 even drew hundreds of athletes, but only the top 12 competitors from each weight class advance to the March 7 finals.

The R.U. Strong Finals were housed in the same gym on March 7, and the results are as follows: Matthew Devorin won the men’s heavyweight division, Teodoros Vlahos won the welterweight division, Timothy Caulfield won the middleweight division, and Joseph Chiavetta won the lightweight division.

For the women, Megan Kaiser won the heavyweight division, and Miranda Previte won the lightweight division.

The competition not only draws committed athletes, but anyone who is willing to test their strength has the freedom to do so.

“My friend and I were running on the stairs at the top of the gym,” said sophomore Melissa Medina. “We saw this going on down below and wanted to test ourselves.”

R.U. Strong is composed of four events, the Atlas Stone Lift, in which competitors lift balls of various weights and place them onto pedestals; the Herculean Tire Flip, in which competitors flip a massive tire eight times; the Ajax Row, in which competitors pull heavy bags attached to ropes across the gym floor; and the Titan carry, in which competitors carry two “logs”-big weighted bars- across the gym floor. The competition does not have to do with how many repetitions someone can do, but employs a system where the fastest time wins.

“I think the key to success for these events requires good functional strength, and quickness,” said Rutgers senior Justin Andronico. “I pride myself on being well-rounded, since all of the times get totaled together.”

The weight that a competitor must lift in each event is scaled to the weight classes. Men competing 179 pounds and under must pull two heavy bags, while men 180 pounds and over must pull three heavy bags. Similar weight scales are used in all events.

For male competitors, the lightweight class is composed of anyone 159 pounds and lighter, middleweight competitors weigh anywhere from 160 to 179 pounds, welterweights weigh 180 to 199 pounds, and heavyweight males weigh over 200 pounds. These weight classes help to ensure fairness and give the athletes equal opportunities to compete against people with the same relative strength. Female competitors are grouped into two weight classes. Lightweights are any competitor 134 pounds and lighter and heavyweights are anyone over 134 pounds.

This style of competition ensures that, for a competitor to be successful, he or she needs to be a well-rounded athlete. Brute strength will not always get the job done in these events.

Each event required the athlete to push him or herself to their fullest because every second counts and a slight misstep can mean the difference between winning or losing.

“The key is to go into the competition well prepped, and do things that mimic the events,” said Nick Occhipinti, the fitness and personal training coordinator of the College Ave Gym. He co-organized the event with Sam Plum. “You can’t hold anything back, because there is less than a minute of total work in four events so any mistake will really cost you.”

Since the events are fairly unorthodox, and the materials cannot be found in a traditional weight room, it is difficult for the athletes to specifically train for each event.

“I play rugby and do all sorts of lifts in the gym,” said lightweight competitor Nick Nahrwold. “Rugby helps a lot with the agility aspect but strength is important too, so you need to have a good combination.”

Andronico said he agreed that you can’t train for the events.

“I cannot specifically train for these events,” said Andronico. “My regular workout regiment of going to the gym five times a week is enough preparation.” Andronico was in high spirits at the time because he qualified in first place for the heavyweight class.

With hundreds of competitors, an event of this size requires a great deal of work to run efficiently.

“A lot of work goes into running R.U. Strong, and each year it develops more,” said Occhipinti. “We got here at 9:30 a.m., but there were weeks of preparation for the schedule, three to four hours of set up, and the event is five hours long as is the finals, so it is an all day thing.”

The scale of the event also poses challenges for the organizers.

“One of the big challenges is safety, because these events can be done improperly and result in injury,” explained Occhipinti. “Also, R.U. Strong draws a lot of aggressive people so many people argue the rules, but we hired more people this year to explain and enforce the rules.