Athletes put on displays of power at Summer Strength Spectacular at York Barbell


EMIGSVILLE — Many spectators at this weekend's International Powerlifting Association Summer Strength Spectacular at York Barbell Company came to see the best in the world put on a show.

Not many were disappointed.

Numerous personal bests and even dozens of world records were broken over the two-day extravaganza, that included a lot of entertainment value for the fans. With events such as the bench press, the tire flip and the stone carry, there was never a dull moment around the complex.

While many left the event satisfied with themselves, there were many more that came agonizingly close to achieving their goals only to wind up just short.

One such competitor was Mifflintown's Todd Willow. The 50 year-old strongman set out to break the bench-press record in the Raw Men's Master (50-54) 250-pound weight class Sunday afternoon.

After easily clearing 395 pounds in his first go-round, the 15-year veteran went for a new record of 425 pounds for his second attempt. Willow nearly completed the lift but came up just short.

A few minutes later, he tried again to break the old record of 420 pounds, to no avail.

Willow clearly wasn't satisfied with how his final two attempts unfolded.

"It's very frustrating," Willow said.

While most of the competitions pit athletes against one another, either directly or indirectly, there was no such thing in the bench-press-only flight. Willow and the other 10 lifters were all competing against their own personal goals they set out to break.

It was just them against the bar.

"I came here to do a certain thing and that's what I want," Willow said after his first attempt. "I have to do 425 to beat the record."

There was no doubt in Willow's mind that he fully expected to break the record. He confirmed that he had already cleared 420 pounds several times during his extensive training in preparation for the event.

"I lift heavy once a week for the chest," he said. "The other four or five days a week I do a lot of chain work, band work."

All the time and effort that Willow puts into staying in shape, as well as maintaining his weight, does take a toll. Throw in the failure to reach his goal and the Juniata County native sounded like he needs to take a bit of a rest.

"I'm probably going to take some time off from lifting heavy," he said. "I've been doing this way too long. Many years. I just need a break."

Sunday's disappointment aside, Willow was still able to enjoy and appreciate the two-day event, which included the Powerlifting Championships, USAWA All-Around Weightlifting Nationals and the NAS Keystone V Strongman Contest.

"We had weigh-ins (Saturday) and I was able to watch some of the events," he said. "People don't realize what all of these people go through to get in shape for this. It's pretty amazing."

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at