The Des Moines Marina was crowded last Saturday, but the event didn’t call for water sports.
Instead, spectators filled the marina parking lot to see who would be crowned “Washington’s Strongest Apple,” a feats of strength competition that includes weight-lifting events such as keg loading and the tire flip.
Maple Valley professional strongman Grant Higa organized the contest, which featured men and women from eight different weight classes competing in five events.
Higa, who is one of only two professionals in the state, wanted to bring the strongman experience to the area.
“Washington’s Strongest Apple” brought in more than 40 competitors, most of which hail from Washington. Participants battled in the Farmer’s Walk, Axle Press, Axle Deadlift along with the tire flip and keg loading events to qualify for the North American Strongman (NAS) Nationals on Sept. 16 in Utah. The top two athletes in each weight class earned spots at nationals.
Notable headliners included former “World’s Strongest Woman” Kristyn Vytlacil and Lacy O’Key. Both women are Washington natives and competed in the heavyweight division at Saturday’s event.
Tahoma High product Zack Nims also made an appearance in the 265-pound weight class. Nims barely earned a spot in his weight class after weighing in at 232 pounds. He originally qualified for the 231-pound weight class, but with a burst of water and a pair of shoes, he put on enough pounds to move up one class and face a challenge against older and bigger men.
The 20-year-old Maple Valley native finished second after four events, thus qualifying for nationals. Nims faced four other competitors in his weight class, but the 2007 North America’s Strongest Teen winner didn’t back down.
Nims finished second in the Farmer’s Walk event carrying 287 pounds in each hand in 43.06 seconds. Athletes needed to carry their respective weights 200 feet within sixty seconds to earn points.
In the second event, Nims completed five cleans in the axel press portion of the competition.
“I was most happy with the Farmer’s Walk, even though I took second,” Nims said. “That was a personal record for me to take 287 pounds in each hand 200 feet, so I was most happy with that.”
Nims flipped a 770-pound tire five times in the third event, which was his only misstep of the afternoon. He rebounded in the axle deadlift and keg medley to finish the afternoon on a high note and punch a ticket to Utah.
The former Tahoma wrestler finished second out of five strongmen in his weight class to qualify for the NAS Nationals.
“He’s got a lot of potential, and he’s a great kid,” Higa said. “He’s blessed with ridiculous strength.”
“Washington’s Strongest Apple” was the fourth competition organized by Higa, but the first in Washington. Higa’s first three contests took place in Oregon and he wanted to make a great impression with his first in Washington.
Joe Dusenbury, the Harbor Master of Des Moines, was so pleased with the success of “Washington’s Strongest Apple” that he decided to make the competition an annual event. Dusenbury wants Higa to return next year while a Corvette car show is also showcased at the pier to hook a larger crowd.
“It was great,” Higa said. “To hear that come out of his mouth was great.”