GOSHEN — Saturday was the second time the CrossFit Elkhart gym was in charge of the strongman competition at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.
After going through some growing pains in 2019, the gym’s general manager, Tim Fair, was pleased with how 2021 went on a warm afternoon at the fairgrounds.
“Coming out of last year, coming out of COVID, we just kind of wanted to keep it simple,” Fair said. “We had six events in 2019, and, one, it was kind of hard to keep organized and keep it from not going too long. So, we did four main events (this year) and beefed up the weights so we could get a little more action out of each one. … Coming out of COVID, we weren’t sure what type of turnout we’d get, and I don’t think it was too far off from as many athletes as we had in 2019. Just a great experience all-around.”
It was an impressive display of strength across all five weight classes at the event: women’s lightweight (174 pounds or less), women’s heavyweight (175 pounds or more), men’s lightweight (195 pounds or less), men’s middleweight (196-229 pounds) and men’s heavyweight (230 pounds or more).
The men’s heavyweight competition was dominated by 32-year-old Derek Traversa. The Walkerton native won all four events in the round-robin competition: the tractor pull (20.35 seconds), yoke carry (16.46 seconds), log press (10) and he successfully deadlifted all five Atlas stones off the ground and onto a truck in the fastest time at 25 seconds. The last stone weighed 250 pounds, and Traversa picked it up with ease.
After the first four events were completed, the top four competitors in each weight class then competed in a medley-type event. The athletes had to carry two heavy logs, then a heavy medicine ball, then drag a weighted sled before ending with a tire flip across a 50-foot course. This would be the only event Traversa would lose, as Nate Morrison won in a time of 1:18.31. Traversa was third, posting a 1:35 time in the event.
Traversa has been training and competing in strongman competitions for the last four years after a family friend gave him some strongman training equipment. The John Glenn High School alum has worked his way through the ranks of the strongman world, almost earning a spot on the national tour earlier this year. He will go back to Chicago in October and try to make it to the national level once again.
“It’s always been my passion because I would watch ‘World’s Strongest Man’ when I was a kid, and I said, ‘I’m going to do that stuff,’” said Traversa of competing in strongman competitions. “Finally, I got an opportunity four years ago. … I’ve been training hard for it. I go to multiple gyms in my area to go train with different people.”
Getting a chance to repeat as 2019 champ was also a cool feeling for Traversa.
“It’s nice,” Traversa said. “I was hoping last year that we’d do it because I kind of missed coming here. It’s local; my family can come and watch because it’s not that far away.”
On the opposite side of the weight scale, Middlebury native Courtney Reimer, 28, triumphed in the women’s lightweight division. She, like Traversa, repeated as champion in her weight class from 2019.
“I try to just keep it fun,” said Reimer about competing. “I’m very competitive, but I don’t want anyone to know how much I really want to win.”
Reimer has been working out at CrossFit Elkhart since 2018, and being able to perform well at the county fair means a lot to her.
“I was a 10-year 4-H person, so coming out to the fair is super fun to me,” Reimer said. “And then, having my gym friends out here and seeing all the people I know, just screaming for you — it’s an adrenaline rush. I love it.”
Other weight class winners were Mindi Fisher in women’s heavyweight, Steven Bowen in men’s lightweight and Curtis Bontrager in men’s middleweight.