With the Physique Olympia looming ever closer in less than a month from now, the IFBB schedule has now completed 17 Women's Physique Division events. And it's not surprising that the Texas Pro WPD held in conjunction with the Rising Phoenix contest drew a huge list of entries for the 18th WPD event of the year. Staged at the Texas Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, on the weekend of August 20-22, promoter Tim Gardner and his productions team staged this Wings of Strength affair by welcoming 32 contestants from 11 states in addition to Texas who carried much of the load with an enthusiastic 15 of those entries. Canada, Sweden and Brazil also contributed to the total. As the largest WPD event of the year thus far, it stood to reason this would be a highly competitive battle for a single Physique Olympia qualifying spot, to say nothing of those who would collect valuable points in the Olympia Qualification Series.
Henton Stays Hot - Wins Wings of Strength Texas Pro WPD
With two dozen competitors already qualified for the upcoming Physique Olympia, Kentucky's Sheronica Henton became the 25th in what is shaping up to be a barnburner of a
competition at the Olympia Weekend in Las Vegas. Out-flexing a field of 32 contestants - which is the largest WPD event of the year to date - Henton followed up strongly at this show after placing third at the PBW Tampa Pro two weeks earlier. Holding back strong challenges from runner-up Mikaila Soto and third-placer Valerie Garcia Giovanoli, Henton used an infectious stage presence along with her well-balanced physical structure to earn the win and a qualifying spot at the Physique Olympia.
For Henton, at 27, she is in prime time to be very competitive, and she's proven that since making her pro debut in the Physique Division at the St. Louis Pro where she finished second back in April. In early July she struck once again with another runner-up placing at the Wings of Strength Chicago Pro. After her third-place finish in Tampa behind veteran Mindi O'Brien and fellow rookie Reshanna Boswell, Henton completed the 'hat trick' with a victory in a huge and very competitive field. With only the Europa Supershow in Atlantic City left for those who are scrambling to qualify for the Olympia, Henton will fit into this year's Physique Olympia just fine. For those with a short memory, Henton began competing in 2012 as a Figure competitor, but after winning the overall Physique division at the 2013 NPC Georgia, her runner-up placing in Physique at the 2014 IFBB North American Championship sealed the deal to earn her pro status. In winning, Henton pocketed $2,000 in prize money, and now it's on to Las Vegas for the Big Show.
Finishing in the bridesmaid spot to Sheronica Henton was Illinois' Mikaila Soto. Outside of the Physique Olympia winners the past two years there may not be a more familiar name in the Pro Physique Division. Combining her love of competing as witnessed by her many, many contest entries, combined with her conquering of severe health issues in 2014, Soto has earned the nickname 'Rebel'. Beginning as a Figure competitor and turning pro in 2010, Soto made the switch to Physique in 2012 and promptly entered seven contests. In 2013 she entered four more. After taking a break in 2014, Soto returned in impressive fashion entered three more events before this Texas Pro competition. Having also experienced good results in the Masters Physique division, Soto has fashioned a quartet of runner-up finishes in open events and never disappoints with her stage savvy and striking presence. Her placing here is her most impressive due to the enormous size of the field which can always find contestants being lost in the shuffle. Not Soto. Judges found her in this Texas Pro contest. And like many others who are still aspiring to the Physique Olympia (a contest where Soto competed in 2013), she still has the opportunity to make the Las Vegas trip - via Atlantic City - when the Europa Supershow takes place on August 29/30. Whether as a winner or on points, she should not be ruled out until then. For her second-place finish, Soto earned a check for $1,000. And as a perk to this Texas event, the winner of the Texas Masters contest was...you guessed it, Mikaila Soto. Such a Rebel!
Anytime a competitor at the pro level can score a top-three placing in their pro debut, that fact can say volumes about their future potential given their desire to remain active in the ranks of the best Physique competitors in the world. Valerie Garcia Giovanoli is a prime example. Originally from Lexington, South Carolina, and making her first pro appearance at this event, the 5-5 1/2, 138-pound sparkler showed a wide array of qualities that can propel her to higher placings in short order. With eye-catching stage presence, this former Figure competitor carries exquisite structural proportions that goes well with her genetically sound muscle shapes in all bodyparts. With limited contest experience in the past that included a Figure victory in the Musclemania Latino Championships, Giovanoli turned pro at the 2014 NPC Nationals with a runner-up finish in the 'C' height class. Considering the fact that Giovanoli only finished a single point behind Mikaila Soto in this event, it would seem that only minor tweaks like adding a pound or two and tightening down her overall conditioning - elements that are far from a major overhaul - she can win an Olympia qualifying event in 2016. Giovanoli accepted a check for $500 for third-place prize money.
Three elements in this field of competitors that presented surprising circumstances included Brazilian Bodybuilding star Anne Freitas trimming down to meet the criteria of the Physique division. Her effort was admirable considering the impressive levels of muscle she has shown in the past, along with the reality that she was a sixth-place finisher in the 2014 Ms. Olympia. The fact that she managed to place 10th out of 32 entrants in her first attempt at a Physique competition is impressive in itself.
But even more surprising was the crash of Yasha and Leah Johnson to the dreaded 'tied for 16th place' showings. Yasha won the Europa Supershow in Dallas on June 20, while Johnson won the Vancouver Pro on July 25th. Both will be competing at the Physique Olympia next month. Needless to say, the duo had to have been somewhat shell-shocked by not experiencing more favorable placements.
1- Sheronica Henton, Kentucky 6
2- Mikaila Soto, Illinois 11
3- Valerie Garcia Giovanoli, South Carolina 12
4- Andrea Holliday, Alabama 22
5- Jessica Gaines, Texas 25
6- Vicki Diaz, Texas 30
7- Jennifer Robinson, Tennessee 31
8- Zoa Linsey, Canada 41
9- Jodi Miller, Texas 44
10- Anne Freitas, Brazil 51
11- Beni Bueno, Texas 54
12- Marnie Holley, Canada 61
13- Jill Livoti, New York 67
14- Asha Hadley, Texas 68
15- Klaudia Larsen, Sweden 79
16- Kendel Dolen, Texas 80
16- Yasha, Texas 80
16- Leah Johnson, Canada 80
16- Kristina Farnsworth, 80
16- Lenore Gregson, Texas 80
16- Kari Hartman, Texas 80
16- Cathy Jackson, Colorado 80
16- Tracy Mason, Michigan 80
16- Amber McIlreath, Texas 80
16- Akane Nigro-Ismeal, California 80
16-Claire O'Connell, California 80
16- Tye Pierpont, Texas 80
16- Lisa Sanders, Texas 80
16- Stacy McDowell, New Jersey 80
16- Trish Swander, Texas 80
16- Star Blaylock, Texas 80
16- Desunka Dawson, Texas 80
Photos courtesy of NPCNewsOnline.com