A Winning Hand

Landing Lee and Bowman key for defending champs in Penn State's record-setting Lift For Life Challenge.

When their football careers are complete, Penn State seniors Josh Hull and Mickey Shuler may want to consider getting into coaching. You see they've already established themselves as effective recruiters.

Hull and Shuler were part of the winning team at the PSU Uplifting Athletes' 2008 Lift For Life Challenge, along with quarterback Daryll Clark and tight end Greg Miskinis.

But with Clark being forced to miss the 2009 event due to a personal commitment and Miskinis having graduated, Hull and Shuler needed new teammates to defend their title.

So they went out and recruited a couple of ringers -- star linebackers Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman.

It worked, as the team, which made a last-minute name change to “Slik Mick and the Magic Trix,” blew away the field in the 11-event strength and conditioning gauntlet that is held annually to help raise money and awareness for the fight against kidney cancer.

“Our strategy was too go all out on every machine,” Hull said. “I think it worked. … Our whole team was solid. We gave it a good effort.”

They did it with a strong across-the-board showing in which team members posted the best performances in five of the 11 events. The beat down on the rest of the field was especially impressive considering Lee missed the entire 2008 season while recovering from a torn ACL.

But he dominated on this day, proving the knee in completely healthy be winning (either on his own or while being paired with Bowman) three events.

Lee also captured the Don Shirley Award, which is presented to the Nittany Lion who has shown the most dedication in the weight room and the classroom.

Finishing second was “The Mad Real World,” featuring defensive linemen Jared Odrick and Jack Crawford as well as tight ends Andrew Quarless and Brennan Coakley. Odrick tied for the lead in the squat jumps and bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times.

Rounding out the top three was “We're Going In,” which featured true freshman quarterback Kevin Newsome, linebacker Chris Colasanti and receivers Graham Zug and James McDonald. McDonald and Newsome teamed to take top honors in the chin ups (see results below).

In all, 24 teams competed. But the real winner was the Kidney Cancer Association. As of Friday evening, PSU Uplifting Athletes had raised a record $81,293 this year. And donations to the cause for this year will be accepted through September. You can contribute at the organization's we site..

“That's huge,” said receiver Brett Brackett, president of Penn State Uplifting Athletes. “With the economy the way it is, we were worried how people would respond. So I'm proud of the guys and proud of all of the Penn State fans who helped us reach the record total. It really makes you feel good.”

Completing the top five were “Three Men and a Frog” (defensive back Jesse Alfreno, defensive lineman Tom Golarz, offensive lineman Dennis Landolt and receiver Pat Mauti) and “98 Degrees” (rookie safety Gerald Hodges, wideouts Derek Moye and Chaz Powell, and safety Nick Sukay).

As usual, teams comprised of recently arrived rookies quickly slipped to the rear of the field. The final six teams were all comprised of athletes who arrived on campus at the beginning of this month, and several of them failed to complete every event.

Event winners were as follows:

1). Leg Curl
Receiver A.J. Price (44)

2). Leg Press
Linebacker Sean Lee (150)

3). Squat Jumps
Safety Drew Astorino (33)
Fullback Josh Matzkin (33)
Linebacker Mike Mauti (33)
Defensive Tackle Jared Odrick (33)

4). Field Challenge 1
The team of linebackers Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman (3:34)

5). Bench Press
Nick Sukay (25 reps of 185)
Brandon Ware (25 reps of 225)

6). Chin Ups
The team of receiver James McDonald and quarterback Kevin Newsome (45)

7). Dips
The team of receiver Chaz Powell and safety Nick Sukay (107)

8). Iron Cross
Defensive Back Stephen Joseph (1:40)

9). Field Challenge 2
The team of linebacker Josh Hull and tight end Mickey Shuler (4:00)

10). Versaclimber
The team of linebacker Josh Hull and tight end Mickey Shuler (5:18)

11). Tire Flip
The team of linebackers Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman (228 yards)

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