2001 NPC Junior Nationals. These are of the figure class
Thanks to Tre for these pictures.
Here are the official results: Bodybuilding lightweights: 1) #45 Angela Irizarry 2) #48 Jamie L. Stopp 3) #40 King Raub 4) #50 Connie Everton 5) #49 Tina Ponchillia Middleweights: 1) #58 Tracy Mason 2) #55 Teresa Moore 3) #52 Antoinette Norman 4) #56 Pamela Wentz 5) #54 Cheryl Sumner Heavyweights: 1) #66 Dre Dillard 2) #62 Mercedes Bazemore 3) #64 Alley Miesch-Nie 4) #68 Audry Peden 5) #63 Kay Lynn Perroni Bodybuilding overall: Dre Dillard NPC Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness, and Figure Championships, 2001 By Tre June 16, 2001 St. Louis, MO St. Louis natives will proudly proclaim that Imo's Pizza is "the best stuff on earth", but the only hot-and-delicious action in St. Louis the weekend of June 16th involved the women of the NPC Junior Nationals, which were being contested at the overpriced Millennium Hotel in downtown St. Louis. Every year, its detractors repeat the same lines about how women's bodybuilding is dying, and every year, the competition keeps getting better and better. And if this year's Junior Nationals is to be any indication, then it appears the women may be re-entering a "golden era" for their sport. One of the best ways to evaluate the quality of a competition isn't by looking at the class winners alone. The entire field, top to bottom, should be considered, and the best shows are the ones at which each of the entrants seems to "belong". Such was the case at this event, which boasted 67 competitors. This year is also the first time the NPC has experimented with a "figure" division to provide more competitive opportunities for women who weight train. The judging criteria are identical to that of the fitness class, with the omission of the fitness routine. The competitors are scored in both one- and two-piece swimsuits, and the format requires them only to do quarter turns on stage in a very pageant-like fashion. Several fans have shown interest in the new class, as it brings faces to the stage they may not have seen otherwise, but still others don't seem to care for it. "It's boring" was all one longtime fan of bodybuilding wanted to say, but then continued, "At least with fitness, there's some activity involved. I don't understand the point of this. Just go tell all the Miss America competitors to do some lifting and cardio." But competitors in the new class disagree. "This is going to take some getting used to - the bodybuilders aren't used to having us in the program and seem to think of us as an 'interruption'. I've been going to shows for a long time and have competed in fitness. But because of an injury, I'm not able to practice my routine right now, so this provides an ideal situation for me. I'm still training and dieting anyway, so I may as well compete so that the judges and fans don't forget about me. It's sad that some of the other athletes aren't welcoming us to the competition. We all have to train and diet very hard to look the way that we do. I don't see us (figure competitors) as 'getting off easy' in any way. I have a lot of respect for what they do and think they should feel the same about us." It will be interesting to see how things play out as the season progresses. Fitness: In the women's fitness short class, Lorie Kimes (1) returned to the form that had made her such a strong contender when she first emerged on the national scene in 1999. She had the same flawless symmetry as two years ago, but was now more well-conditioned than she'd shown in the past. Her routine has never lacked shine and despite the less-than-perfect stage conditions, she hit all her elements and was clearly the athlete to beat in the short class. In the tall class, several new faces were making their national-level debuts. While the statuesque pair of Alana Hernandez (15) and Christina Golden (16) were making waves, it was the quiet South Carolinian, Kristy Robbins (18), who made the loudest splash of all. Displaying the shapely softness that seemed to be the Y2K standard, Kristy quickly emerged as the judges' favorite. Hers abs were not as well-defined as those who placed below her, but her symmetry and overall balance were hard to ignore. It was no surprise at all when she was announced the winner of the tall class. In the "stand-around-down" for the overall title, the purists were calling for Lorie, while the new-age fans were staked out in Kristy's camp. Lorie was ripped, and she was the veteran. Kristy, the young upstart, seemed heavily outgunned, but held her poise. And when the final decision was announced, she accepted her prize with the dignity of a champion who knew all along that she'd be wearing the crown. Figure: The rest of the figure class entered the competition with a heavy disadvantage, as Lorie and Kristy were competing as crossovers. That meant that they had already earned a measure of favor with the judges, so the 34 other women in the class were essentially fighting it out for the three remaining places. The best pure physique in this class was that of Sharon Christian (23), winner of the 2001 NPC Arkansas Classic and one of Kimes's training partners back at the Powerhouse Gym in Little Rock, Arkansas. With no apparent deficiencies, she seemed a lock for the top slot, but that just goes to show that the prognosticators don't always know what they're talking about, for it was Robbins who once again stole the show. The crowd offered mild approval of the decision, but the applause was most likely due to the fact that they wouldn't be subjected to anymore figure that day...that it was now time for the main event - bodybuilding. Bodybuilding: Throughout the course of the 2000 season, there had been a lot of discussion about what many in the bodybuilding community felt were some questionable judging decisions at the Junior Nationals that year. In a sweeping effort to make women's bodybuilding more appealing to a larger audience, an attempt had been made to "reset" the standards, as it were. Criteria such as muscularity and conditioning now seemed to take a backseat to softness and the ultimate, undefinable wildcard - femininity. After a year of many questions and few answers, the competitive season culminated in one of the best Nationals in recent memory. There were some close calls, but it seemed that the changes to the judging criteria were going to pay off after all. From the competitors' standpoint, however, the real desire was simply to see more consistency. In the lightweight class, it was California's Angela Irizarry (45) who served notice that this sport was still about bodybuilding. Weighing in at 116 lbs, Irizarry seemed almost larger-than-life onstage and truth be told, had a physique that would've contended very nicely at Nationals last November. Her physique is ready for prime time, so if she elects to compete at the USAs and can hold her condition for another six weeks, she'll most certainly garner one of the high placings. Jamie L. Stopp (48) was the runner-up in this class and was just a few degrees of conditioning away from the victory, as she appeared to be the most massive, yet still well-propotioned woman in her class. At first glance, she looked a bit soft to place as high as she did, but as soon as she flexed during the comparison rounds, the gently-detailed muscularity was readily evident. In the middleweight class, one competitor grabbed center stage at the opening bell, Teresa Moore (55) of Columbia. This former collegiate and masters national champion (both in 1997) appears not to have aged a day in four years, and her physique hasn't lost any of its appeal either. Her incredibly broad shoulders give her a leg up on most other middleweight competitors in the symmetry department and she was certainly the most muscular of her group as well. But the surprise winner was longtime veteran, Tracy Mason (58), who last appeared on stage as Tracy Palubiak. Even though her physique was not overpowering, she had brought a carefully aligned package to the stage. She was adequate in every category and even though her physique wasn't as awe-inspiring as Moore's, her overall balance was tremendous and nothing seemed to be missing. Her win was reminiscent of Kim Harris's victory in the middleweight class at Nationals, so that's a demonstration of judging consistency. The third spot was captured by Toni Norman (52), who continues to be one of the most beautiful stars on the scene today. Her perfect smile framed by delicate features makes her one of the most visually appealing women on stage any time she steps up. And furthermore, there's no denying that she has an incredible physique, too. Even though she's not as massive as the other women in her group, she adds a high level of grace and class to any lineup that she's in. In fourth was newcomer Pam Wentz (56), who holds or has held several American records in powerlifting. Fifth went to Cheryl Sumner (54) of North Carolina, who rode the strength of her magnificent pectorals to a top-five placing. In the heavyweight division, the clear favorite at entry was Dre Dillard (66) of Texas. There were a variety of body types in this class, but Dre and Audry Peden (68) appeared to be the only ones who were "in shape". Mercedes Bazemore (62) grabbed the runner-up position, but does not yet have enough thickness across the top of her long frame to compete with the shorter women in the symmetry comparisons. Third place went to Alley Miesch-Nie, whose exotic good looks and dynamic muscularity will no doubt keep her busy with the photographers as she possesses a look no one's really seen before. And though the judges may not have liked it, the crowd went wild when she hit a "most muscular" pose during her routine - class and attitude...a heckuva combination. Finishing just out of the top five were Michelle Baker and Anita Nikolich, who sported some of the most impressively-shaped arms seen in quite some time at this level. The largest competitor was Lillian Thomas who came in at 148 lbs, but she just hadn't done enough dieting in time for this show. When the three class champions took the stage for the overall posedown, none of the other two women could match the fan support of Dillard, who seemed to have the whole state of Texas backing her, and not only backing her, but also in the ballroom. How could the judges ignore that? Irizarry seemed to possess the best overall aesthetic, but was perhaps too unknown to get the nod this time out. If she continues to present in the shape she was at this show, though, she will be turning lots of heads in the very near future. Dre Dillard is now officially on the fast track to stardom. This future pro let it be known that it is she who is the true diva on the NPC circuit this year. If you get a chance to watch her pose anywhere this summer, take advantage of it - it's well worth the price of admission. Congratulations to Dre and to all the other competitors who helped to make this such a memorable event.
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