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MailTribune.com
  • BODYBUILDING

    Area bodybuilders muscle way to titles

    Medford's Friend, Huard win masters divisions; Sams Valley's Haas earns pair of top-5 finishes at NPC Masters National Championships
  • Medford certainly isn't the biggest city in Oregon but on a national stage where size truly matters, a pair of locals overshadowed all others this past weekend in Pittsburgh.
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  • Medford certainly isn't the biggest city in Oregon but on a national stage where size truly matters, a pair of locals overshadowed all others this past weekend in Pittsburgh.
    Bodybuilders Kay Friend and Mike Huard, each of Medford, secured first-place finishes at the 2014 NPC Masters National Championships in Pennsylvania, while a third local competitor — Tony Haas of Sams Valley — turned in a pair of top-5 efforts to further bolster Southern Oregon's turnout on the East Coast.
    Friend won her national championship in the women's masters over 65 bodybuilding division and also placed seventh in the women's masters over 55 physique division.
    Competing for the first time at the national championships, Huard finished first in the masters over 60 lightweight bodybuilding division.
    In all, nearly 1,000 competitors participated in 112 divisions at the Pittsburgh event.
    "I didn't have anybody to compete against since the over 65 girl in my class last year left me all alone," Friend said with a laugh, "but getting a national title is still exciting. Mike sure was excited. For me, the physique class was a very, very tough class so I was more happy that I placed in that."
    Friend, who turns 66 on Aug. 17, has been competing since 1995 and is trained by her husband, Jack Friend, who is also a championship competitive bodybuilder. Jack Friend, 59, had a streak of 10 years placing among the top five at the national championships snapped this past weekend when he was 12th in the masters over 50 heavyweight bodybuilding division.
    The husband-and-wife duo have competed together since meeting in 1998 and provide training and dieting regimens for their Northwest Muscle team based in Medford.
    "Jack didn't even get compared and that was not even fair in his class," said Kay Friend, a former Emerald Cup and Oregon state champion with numerous other trophies to her name. "He was just overlooked and I don't know why."
    For his part, Huard said hearing his name called out for first place in a tight two-man race was overwhelming and nearly brought him to tears.
    "I was flabbergasted," he said. "It was the last thing I ever expected. You're supposed to go in thinking you're going to win but I'm more realistic because you just never know in these situations."
    "It's just a little bitty cheap trophy but what it signifies is huge," added Huard, who has lived in Medford since 1976 and recently became sole owner of the MAX Muscle Sports Nutrition store in Medford. "Even a week later, I still can't believe I did that on my first time out."
    Huard, 63, has been in 18 competitions since taking up bodybuilding eight years ago on a dare. Rehab therapy on a pair of injured elbows involved weightlifting and one thing led to another and he started losing weight and shaping up. Soon after, a couple friends essentially dared him to take it to the next level and he's been hooked ever since.
    The opportunity to compete against his actual peers — the national championships offer a chance to be broken down in divisions by age and weight and not just one or the other — was too tempting to pass up for the 151-pound Huard.
    "I'm just a little bitty guy so this was my one chance in a year to know where I stand among my peers," he said.
    "Once I got there, everything was just big and oversized," Huard added of the Pittsburgh event. "It was very well run, even with all the people there, and the competitors were all the cream of the crop. The competition there is extremely keen because everyone's there for national recognition. I saw some of the most incredible specimens of bodybuilding for men and women, all the way to those in the figure and bikini competitions."
    For Haas, the field of competitors were definitely deeper but it didn't deter him from placing fourth in the masters over 35 welterweight bodybuilding division and fifth in the masters over 40 welterweight bodybuilding division. There were seven competitors in the first class and 13 in the second for Haas to contend with in only his third show.
    Haas, 41, was coming off a pair of fifth-place finishes in the Oregon Ironman in Lincoln City this past May for Northwest Muscle.
    "I would've been really disappointed not to place in the top five," said the 5-foot-8, 165-pound bodybuilder. "I knew it was going to be really tough being the national championships, and a lot of times it comes down to who happens to show up, but I was really happy with where I came out and where I personally came in as far as my conditioning."
    Haas' first show was in May 2013 and he said the highlight to his competitive bodybuilding career thus far has to be his experience in Pittsburgh. The winner of his over 40 division was a three-time national champion, and Haas finished one spot ahead of last year's national champion in that same division.
    "Even though it was seven months of dieting and prepping for it, there's just nothing like competing for a national championship," said Haas, who is a 15th-year senior mortgage banker at Pacific Residential Mortgage in Medford.
    Haas had wanted to compete in bodybuilding when he was younger but that never really developed until he got back into weightlifting while working with the Hanby Middle School wrestling team from 2008-11.
    "I had been away from the gym for 13 years prior to that and wrestling around with the kids made it necessary to get back to the gym and get in shape," he said with a laugh. "Those darn 14-year-old boys are stronger than you think these days."
    Once he reached the 40-year-old stage, Haas realized he could compete in the masters division for bodybuilding and a longtime bucket list item turned into a reality and, later, much more.
    "It turned into something I thought I could take a little but further and do it at a higher level and challenge myself a little," said Haas, who is a Sams Valley native and graduated from Crater High in 1991. "Really the main things I like about (bodybuilding) are I like improving myself and I like being able to kind of make your body like a piece of artwork and sculpt it and make changes and improve upon myself."
    As someone who has always had a passion for competing at a high level, mostly through years of motocross riding, Haas said his experience at getting to and finally competing in the national championships provided a definite thrill.
    "I have enjoyed doing it but I don't know if it's something I'd do every year because I just have a lot of varied interests and it does take a lot of commitment and a lot of time," he admitted. "Everyone ends up being affected by your diet timing and everything when this is your hobby, but sometimes it's fun to see where you stack up against everyone else."
    Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry
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