Bringing home the hardware

MANCHESTER - Six people from the same gym competing in a bodybuilding competition is unusual. All six people placing in the top three in their respective classes is rare. But on April 27 that's exactly what happened when Dan Colegrove, Dana Dussault, Adam Ihasz, Carrie Mathews, Lia Taylor, and Olivia Warren - members of The Manchester Gym - competed in the NPC Vermont State Championships at South Burlington High School - qualifying them all for a national competition.

"That part I would say is somewhat unusual," said Colegrove, who placed first in Heavyweight and third in Novice Heavyweight in Men's Bodybuilding. "We had a good mix of people in all different classes and different divisions. So, I would say it's somewhat uncommon that we all placed high and everybody did so well."

The April 27 competition marked the end of a bit of a drought for Colegrove who hadn't taken first place in a show since he competed in his first one when he won as a Light Heavyweight.

"I was trying to add size to my frame so then it's figuring out how to diet in a more efficient way to keep that muscle you put on," said Colegrove. "That's kind of the trick of it. In the off-season we'll add size and then when we diet down we have to figure out how to manipulate the diet and the cardio to make sure we keep most of that size we put on. So, it's trial and error sometimes."

Warren - the youngest competitor at the championships at 18 - placed second in Class B and third in Novice in the Figure category - something that took her aback.

"I was definitely surprised," she said. "I kept waiting for them to call my name and they kept calling everyone else and then the first time (for Class B) I placed second I was just really, really happy."

The experience was also special for Taylor who coached Warren for the competition.

"Seeing her face and her response when she got her award was just so gratifying," said Taylor." It just made me really proud and really happy to be a part of that and share that experience with her. It was great."

Taylor placed second in Class A for the Figure category, re-qualifying her for nationals in November. The NPC Vermont State Championships were just a warm up for Taylor though who will be competing in a national show in Chicago, Ill. on June 14.

"I came in second and I was happy with that. So it's good to know that the judges are seeing my improvements," said Taylor. "I continue to improve and get better at each show and it's a lot of the same judges so they are continuing to see me on stage and it's a lot of the same judges that will be at these national shows."

Following the competition in Chicago, Ill., Taylor said she also plans to compete at the national competition in November.

In this her third show, Dussault - who placed fourth in her first two competitions - placed first in Class C and Masters 35 and Up.

"I was ecstatic. I don't know if you can actually describe it," said Dussault. "It's just the culmination of all your hard work ... [paying] off."

Though all six members are now qualified to compete in a national show, several plan to spend about the next year preparing for another show and according to Ihasz - who placed second in Light Heavyweight, Novice and Masters Over 35 Heavyweight in Men's Bodybuilding - and a couple other members of the group the process is already underway.

"Today. Today starts it," said Ihasz on Monday. "We decided to all take a week off to give our central nervous systems a break. We've been going at it for seven months straight without a break. So, we took a week off and now we're back in the gym and now the clock starts all over again."

Not only was it all the training that was required over the past several months for the group, but the dieting aspect was a major factor as well. While they all eat healthily on a consistent basis, their diet becomes more strict in the 12 to 16 weeks leading up to the competition. At that point they are on a high protein diet, during which portions have to be strictly monitored.

During that period they usually allow themselves one "cheat meal," such as pizza or a cheesburger, per week. In the three weeks leading up to the show though, Mathews - who placed second in Class C and eighth in the Masters 35 and Up in the Figure category - said not only do they no longer have a cheat meal, but they stop consuming other things such as dairy products as well, which makes it more difficult.

"When you're training ... I don't want to say you don't have a whole lot to look forward to, but you definitely count on those cheat meals once a week where you can just sort of indulge and enjoy and when they're taken away we're sort of also on a low carb diet, so energy starts to get eaten up really quickly with all the cardio we're doing," said Mathews. "So, it does put a damper on things and it does make the meal after the show taste a whole lot better."

Losing the cheat meal three weeks before the competition may be difficult, but the day of the show - and the three days leading up to it for that matter - is a different animal all together in part because the diet becomes even more strict.

"Throughout the whole day you're still watching certain macronutrients that you're taking in and you can't really drink a whole lot of water at that point still because you're still trying to hold that dryness. You're trying to shed that subcutaneous layer of water for the show. So, taking in the wrong things could have an effect on that so you have to be careful," said Colegrove. "It's not that we're under calorie, it's just the days leading up to the show it's just a few things that we eat. Dry carbs; so carbs that don't absorb any water and you're kind of sticking to low sodium proteins. So, that's most of what we're eating Thursday, Friday and most of the day Saturday. ... We're taking in plenty of calories, but it just doesn't feel like it necessarily."

As a result, Colegrove and many members of the team said the dinner after the show was one of the best parts of the day, if not the best part.

In addition to all six members performing well, members of the group said they also enjoyed being able to spend time with each other backstage and during the downtime. That in combination with the tremendous level of support among them was something that several of them felt was a key to their success.

"This was actually an easier show for me because I've done a lot of shows by myself or with one other person so having the team there, having all six of us together, made it a lot more fun," said Taylor. "So, it was probably one of my favorite competition experiences so far because of that."

After the competition was over, Dussault said the group went straight to dinner.

"Everybody had something to eat, something to drink. It was a nice time to finally sit down with the team and just relax and just enjoy each others company and not worry about what we're putting in our mouths," she said. "It was just nice to sit down and be like 'We're done.'"

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