More than 100 football players take the field, and the competitive juices are overflowing. So what's going on? Have the renegade Hokies returned for a scrimmage? Is Louisville in town? Nope. It's time for everybody's favorite off-season entertainment, the West Virginia University Football Team's annual Night of Champions, otherwise known as the Mountaineer Olympics, or, perhaps, "The Mike Barwis Show."
Every year, the Mountaineers put on an exhibit of brawn and speed, a little something to reward the players for the hard work of off-season conditioning and a little teaser for the most dedicated of fans, those who braved the rain on a weeknight to inhale the fumes of gridiron success.
Football players are divided into ten teams of about 10 to 12 each, to compete in a variety of contests designed to evaluate and showcase some of the skills necessary to the successful pursuit of television contracts and bowl games. It's about bonding, team work, skill development, and good old-fashioned fun. Each team participates in every event, and each event is scored. In the individual events, 10 points go to the first-place finisher, eight points for second, six points for third, and so on. In the team events, only the top three finishers gained points, three for first, two for second, and one for third. The winning team will be treated to a steak dinner and, as Coach Rich Rodriguez put it, "special outfits." The losers will serve that steak dinner and feed on hot dogs.
And the winners for 2007 are:
Competitors bench pressed 225 pounds, with the title going to the one with the most repetitions.
Keilin Dykes, with 30 reps
Nick Tavernelli, 25
Tim Reed, 23
This event involves a vertical jump from a standing start. The fifth and final round was a vertical leap of five feet. Some of the participating players weren't all that much taller than the stack of boxes.
Fast Man Relay
Relay teams of four players contested a 70-yard sprint. Participants weighed less than 250 pounds.
Teams were composed of three players, each weighing more than 250 pounds.
The competition was briefly interrupted for a non-scored extremely hilarious "Dead Man's Carry." Teams of 3 persons raced, carrying a fourth player for 30 yards. Most of the carried players traveled face up, but Patrick White launched himself face down, in the Superman position. Rich Rodriguez's voice traveled through the room: "Please don't drop the quarterback!"
Tug of War (7 on 7)
No one wanted the tug of war to end, so Coach Rod authorized additional challenges:
Defensive line vs. Offensive line (Offense won, led by Ryan Stanchek)
Patrick McAfee and Patrick White protested vigorously when their demands for a Kickers vs. Quarterbacks challenge were denied.
Competitors flung a 30-pound medicine ball over their heads, backwards.
1. John Holmes, at 13 ½ yards
2. Doug Slavonic, 13 yards
3. Ed Collington, 11 ½ yards
Competitors carried two 130-pound dumbbells (total 260 pounds) as far as possible.
And finally, the highlight of the evening: The egg eating contest
The winner ate 10 hard boiled eggs with no more than one cup of water in the shortest time.
1. Thor Merrow
2. Bobby Kash
3. Matt Dobson
Honorable mention: Patrick McAfee, who finished last, but with great melodrama.
The winning teams were: 1. The team coached by Dusty Rutledge: Best, Cooper, Dykes, Glenn, Hale, Hostetler, Jobe, Slavonic, Sowers, Wilder, and Woodruff. 2. The team coached by new assistant coach Frey: Antonio Lewis, Brown, Campbell, Dobson, Harrison, Holloway, Lankster, Pugnetti, Reynaud, Robinson, and Stanchek 3. The team coached by Bill Stewart: Bednarik, Bilokonsky, Capers, Coffindaffer, Contraguerro, Ivy, Ja. Miller, Neild, Phillips, Villagrana, and Wicks.
The evening finished with a rousing version of "Hail, West Virginia," sung by the team. Rifle Reports: It was great to see Adam Bednarik back in action after a medical redshirt year. It was also great to see former Mountaineer star and new graduate assistant Jahmile Addae back in the Caperton Center.
Steve Slaton and Pat White were enthusiastic participants in the evening's hilarity, but didn't compete except in the 70-yard relay. Slaton's cast is off, his wrist seems to be healing well, and he was exuberant. White was relaxed; his laughter filled the Caperton Center on more than one occasion. I think I even heard him do the Panther meow once or twice.
Marc Magro has a huge scar on his left knee from recent surgery. He, too, seems to be healing well, but was kept out of all competition except the bench press.
Ridwan Malik has decided to return for his final year of eligibility. He graduated in December and had seriously considered moving on. It was good to see him looking so happy and relaxed.
Jason Gwaltney was a full participant and seems to have managed the social readjustment with his teammates successfully. Interestingly, he caucused with the wide receivers for the tug of war.