Athletes square off at fair's endurance contest
SHIPROCK — Joshua Paytiamo didn’t look nervous on Friday as he sat on a hay bale under a white tent at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair. He didn’t appear worried about the competitors lining up in the shade. And he didn’t often look at the tractor tires, logs and wheelbarrow filled with concrete bags that soon he would haul.
Instead, the 21-year-old was focused on winning the fair’s first endurance contest. He had been training hard for months, strengthening his legs with squats, lunges and leg presses and curls and working his upper body.
Before the contest, high-tempo music blasted from two speakers inside the test as men and women warmed up in the dirt. The first-place prize was $300, with $200 for second and $100 for third in the men’s and women’s categories.
The goal of the competition was to move heavy objects – tractor tires, logs and cement bags, 80-pounds each – in a wheelbarrow across the ground as quickly as possible.
Contestants were initially told they would drag a car and go-cart, both parked in neutral, but those plans fizzled. Frank Smith, who organized the competition, said the people who volunteered to donate he car and go-cart didn’t follow through, so he improvised, adding a log throw and tire pull.
As the competition began, feet slipped in the dirt as people flipped tires and heaved wheelbarrows.
Olivia Benally grimaced as she pulled a tire hooked to a rope in the final round.
None of this was new to the Farmington resident. The 22-year-old had been training to join the U.S. Marines. Twice a week, she met with others to push tires, carry logs and lift weights in the gym. And every month, she worked out with people from Albuquerque, Gallup, Farmington and Durango, Colo.
“People are always saying women are not as strong as men,” she said, adding that women are just as strong.
Benally stopped training more than a year ago after the birth of her daughter, but she was still strong enough to win the women’s category of the contest. And Paytiamo won the men’s category.
Marlene Yazzie, of Little Water, won second place and took home $200. Her two teenage daughters also won money.
“I really wish I was more focused with my health a long time ago ‘cause I’m 44 now,” she said. “But I’m having fun with my kids.”
Diabetes and heart disease run in her family, Benally said, but she loves running races with her children. She also said a nurse is teaching her children how to lead active, healthy lifestyles.
Next year, Smith said he may bring back the endurance competition or introduce a fishing competition to catch the heaviest fish.
“We’re just trying things out,” he said.
Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.