To the Top of Scotland

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck at the Top of Scotland

On a recent trip to the Scottish Masters World Championships I decided to take a day and do some mountain climbing. My grandfather had a copy of the famous painting “Monarch of the Glen” when I was a kid and the Cairngorm Mountains are the back drop that inspired the painting. I decided, to honor my grandfather, I’d climb that mountain! And, to honor my friend, Al Myers, I wore my Dino Gym cap when I did it.

It was a 9 hour grueling hike for a 300lb, 45year old weightlifter with a bum hip. The weather turned typically bad….really bad and it turned into a real adventure. But an adventure I’ll never forget and one I’m writing a much longer story about that I’ll share when it is done. I made it to the top of the 2nd and 5th tallest Mountains in Scotland. Ben Mcduibh was thought to be the tallest mountain in Scotland for centuries and traditionally is still thought of as the tallest (it falls short by a mere 30ft). Many legends surround it, it’s said to be haunted, and you will find primitive stone “forts” that the highlanders used centuries ago when they used the Mountain tops to signal each other in times of invasion.

The picture is at the top of Mcduibh because when I made it to the top of Cairngorm, I was dealing with freezing rain, winds gusting 70plus mph, and fog so thick you could barely see! I made it, just barely!

My trip to the York Barbell Museum

by Al Myers

A Bronze Bust of the founder of York Barbell - Bob Hoffman

Following the IAWA World Championships last month, I got to do something I have always wanted to do – go see the famous York Barbell Museum in York, Pennsylvania.  It only took Chad and I a hour or two to make the trip from Lebanon – and it was worth it!  The museum contains the entire history of York Barbell, photos and equipment of Old Time Strongmen, and the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.  We met up with Mike Locondro, who is the retail manager of York Barbell, and got insight into York Barbell beyond that normally seen by a normal museum tour.  As some of you know, Mike has competed in USAWA competitions in the past and was very good, placing 10th Overall in the 1993 & 1995 World Championships.  He was very gracious to us and gave us a tour of the York Gym, which is off-limits to the general public.  He spent over two hours visiting with us.  Chad and I thought we must have been receiving special treatment because we were All-Rounders, but the truth is Mike is just an outstanding salesman and treats all customers that way.

Chad posing with the full-size sculpture of Eugen Sandow

Now back to the York Museum – I can’t even start to describe everything that we seen.  A highlight for me was seeing the Travis Dumbbell, which Warren Lincoln Travis used in many of his strength shows.  It weighs 1500 pounds empty!! It seemed much bigger to me than the prior impression I had of it from pictures.  The York Museum contains the Challenge Barbells of Eugen Sandow and G.W. Rolandow.  Just getting to put your hands on a barbell with so much history is an amazing feeling.  The museum has the Challenge Dumbbell of Louis Cyr.  It weighs empty 202 pounds and fully loaded with lead shot weighs 270 pounds.  Cyr could easily take it one handed and Side Press it.  These are just a few of the museum items – there is much more!! The museum details  the complete history of York Barbell, and tells the story of how Bob Hoffman built York Barbell into a weightlifting empire. If you ever get the chance to go to the York Barbell Museum – make sure to give yourself at least a half day to see it all!

But give Mike a call first – and tell him you’re an All-Rounder.

The Challenge Barbell of W.A. Pullum

by Al Myers

W.A. Pullum and his famous Challenge Barbell

To win the 100 pound offered in connection with this challenge, the man taking it up had first to lift overhead in the “One Hand Anyhow” style this barbell loaded to a poundage equivalent to 1 1/2 times his own weight, after which a kettlebell representing a third of the barbell poundage had to be lifted overhead with the other hand.

This “double-bodyweight” feat of W.A. Pullum was performed  twelve times a week at music halls.  The Challenge, however, was never accepted.

Source: How to Use a Barbell by W.A. Pullum

Hall of Fame Biography – Howard Prechtel class of 1993

The Life of Howard Prechtel

by Dennis Mitchell

Howard Prechtel and one of his favorite lifts - the Hip Lift

Back in the late 1940’s Howard Prechtel was competing in Olympic Lifting. At that time it was the only way to compete. However, his real love in lifting was the odd lifts. That was what the All-Round lifts where called then. As power lifting became more popular he competed in that also. With the organizing of All-Round lifting Howard was in his true element. He still competed in both Olympic and Power lifting, while competing in All-Round meets, setting many National and World records. Besides competing he was active as a referee and meet promoter for both National and World meets. He organized the Gold Cup Record Day, which has become an annual event. For many years he held the Buckeye Record Day every February. He has been both the National and World President. Howard is also known for his ability as a “Bone Setter”. Though he had no formal training, he learned his skills from a fellow lifter who was a medical professor, and taught him the art of manipulation.

Howard Prechtel in his earlier days competing in Olympic Weightlifting

Here are some of Howard’s lifting accomplishments. At age 52, he did a Harness lift of 1,910 pounds for 22 reps in 30 seconds. At age 57, he broke Warren Travis’ record set in 1927, by lifting 1,111 pounds 5,460 times in 3 hours and nine minutes. What lift? The Travis lift! At age 62, he did a Roman Chair sit up with 908 pounds. At age 70, he did 105 reps in 75 seconds with 1,102 pounds, in the Travis lift. Other than his lifting accomplishments Howard was a decorated Marine in the second world war, where he served for four years in the Pacific. He took part in several invasions and was wounded twice. He seldom talked about this except that it was very horrible and it was best left in the past.

Al Myers Inducted into the RMSA Hall of Fame

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers receiving the RMSA Hall of Fame Award Picture Left to Right: Thom Van Vleck, Al Myers, and Chad Ullom

I recently was contacted by Greg Bradshaw of the Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletes (RMSA) and asked if I would do the honors of inducting our own Al Myers into the RMSA Hall of Fame. They asked that I do it at the McPherson Scottish Highland Games in McPherson, Kansas. Al was the Athletic Director of this games for many years and built it into one of the premier Scottish Games in the Midwest. In 2007, Al hosted the Scottish Masters World Championships in McPherson. I presented a speech for Al and in it are things I think you should all know about him and that his involvement in Strength Sports goes far beyond the USAWA. Al has had quite a career as an athlete and going into the RMSA Hall of Fame (there has been only 6 inductees in over 30 years) is a just reward for a great athlete and friend.

The following is my speech:

We are here today to honor Al Myers and induct him in the RMSA Hall of Fame.

Al is a veterinarian and his family includes his Wife – Leslie of 23 years, and three daughters – Emily, Katie, and Molly. Al has always counted on their support.

As a competitor, Al started in the Highland Games in 1987 at the age of 20. He retired in 2005, after 19 years of competition. During that time he competed in over 200 Highland Games and over 100 Powerlifting Meets. Al competed as a professional Highland Games athlete for 10 years, from 1990 to 2000. He held the American Record in the 16# Sheaf toss in 1995, with a height of 35 feet (which is when I first met him). His best throws in the Highland Games were 16lb Sheaf 35 feet, 20# Sheaf 31 feet, Open Stone 48 feet, Bramaer Stone 38 feet, LWFD 81 feet, HWFD 41 feet, 16# Hammer 130 feet, 22# Hammer 108 feet, and WOB 15’11”. Al’s favorite and best event was the Caber Toss – an event he always placed high in. He has won over 100 Caber Competitions in his Highland Game career. Al was a 6 time Rocky Mountain athlete of the year – from the years 1991 to 1996 and held several RMSA records. As if this weren’t enough: Al also had a whole other athletic career in powerlifting. He was a 12 time state champion, 3 time collegiate National Champ and 7 time National Champion.

You would think the guy might want to take a break, but Al has continued on in another sport: The United States All-Round Weightlifting Association. He just recently was awarded Overall Best Lifter at this past year’s National Championships. He has won 6 All-Round National Championships since “Retiring” from the highland games, and was the Overall Best Lifter in three of these. He has won 3 All-Round World Championships, and was the Overall Best Lifter in the 2006 World Championships, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland. At the awards banquet following this competition he wore his Kilt to honor Scotland and the Scottish Games.

But Al was NOT just an Athlete. He was the Kansas representative to the Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletic organization for over 10 years. He was responsible for introducing many new throwers to the Highland Games and helped in getting new games started in other areas (including mine). Al has spent countless hours training new throwers at his gym, the DINO GYM, which is fully equipped as a Highland Games training complex! He has promoted several training Games at his place through the years to help build interest for the Highland Games athletics.

Today, even though he is retired as a thrower, Al is still very involved in coaching and promoting games. He just recently promoted the very first Highlander Nationals – which is a combination of Highland Game events and Strongman events.

But perhaps more importantly to those here today, he was the first athletic director of the McPherson Highland Games, and performed in that capacity until 2007. In his last year as athletic director of the McPherson Games, he hosted the Masters World Highland Games Championships.

Now, you might be thinking at this point that Al is Ten feet tall, weighs two tons, eats hammers and nails, and can take a shot gun blast standing…..his hammer actually travels faster than a speeding bullet, his run up on the Caber can derail a locomotive, and his WOB could clear the Empire State building……and those are his warm ups….

But joking aside, the reality is, Al is one of us and never made any of us feel any less. Scottish games are built on kith and kin, friends and family. Athletes used to participate knowing that the next day they might be called to fight side by side. Al very much embodied that friendship and made all of us that came after him feel like part of the highland games family. Al’s impact goes far beyond what I’ve talked about today. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this recognition and it’s a standard that I know many of us here want to maintain. Thanks, Al, and may God continue to Bless you and your family for many years to come.

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