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High on Hurrle!

St. Louis, Missouri, March 17: The second edition of the new Pro Physique division competitions for 2012 was propelled this weekend by 1st Phorm and promoters Jack and Ann Titone. Staged at the Busch Student Center on the campus of St. Louis University, once again the air was filled with fan curiosity as to what the outcome would bring. With so many potential pro competitors apparently still quietly playing the wait-and-see game and just how judges are reacting to what they see on stage, a small contingent of nine contestants took the next step in helping form the early foundations of how this division will proceed.


In a field where three competitors followed up from the first contest in Arizona on the 25th of February, along with two entrants dropping in after the official deadline, and a third of the field coming from the state of Colorado, the variety of the physiques among the nine women did little to make it any easier on the judges to form a level of consistency. One thing is certain, however, it will take far more than just a few of these events to draw any hard and fast conclusions as to exactly where Physique competitors fit in compared to figure and bodybuilding criteria.

With $3,500 in prize money available to the top three placers, the two late entrants – Sarah Hurrle and Michelle Blank – were honored with the first call-out. With only these two competitors called out first, judges made it clear they were making a final decision on who of the two would take home the victory. Coincidentally, both Hurrle, from Denver, Colorado, and Blank from St. Simon's Island, Georgia, were already established pros....Hurrle in figure and Blank in fitness. Both were also very close in size with Blank at 5-4 and Hurrle at 5-5, with each competing right at the 132-pound mark. Another coincidence came by way of Hurrle and Blank each earning their pro status at the 2010 NPC Junior Nationals with Hurrle winning her class in figure and Blank winning her class in fitness. Although Hurrle ended up winning this event in unanimous fashion, the decision as to Blank's switch from fitness to physique is interesting. Unlike Hurrle, who had not yet cracked the top five at lower level pro figure contests, Blank on the other hand had finished sixth at the 2011 Fitness Olympia and had made a strong showing in her debut year with a third-place finish at the 2011 New York Pro and fourth at the Toronto Supershow. With the unlikely decision to add a Physique Olympia event in 2012, will Blank simply move back into Fitness? Whatever the case, Hurrle collected $2,000 for winning and Blank took the runner-up check for $1,000 with each surrendering a $250 fee for their late entries.


Finishing third was New Jersey's Jennifer Smythe. Unlike many figure competitors at the national amateur level, Smythe had experienced good fortune placing in the top six of her class in events such as the USA, Nationals and Team Universe. At 5-2 ½ and normally competing around the 117-pound mark as a figure competitor, Smythe made the transition to Physique a seamless one. Her overall Physique division win at the Team Universe last year vaulted her into the pro ranks, and in her pro debut as a Physique competitor she has a top three finish to show for it – along with a check for $500.


From Tennessee, fourth-place finisher Jennifer Robinson – compared to Jennifer Smythe – had struggled for three years as an amateur figure competitor. At 5-3 and a well-balanced 121 pounds Robinson's level of muscularity lifted her to the overall win in last year's NPC Junior National Physique division, whereas in the past, it had been her downfall. Like many others who will be feeling their way as to a given look that seems to work best, her placing at this event should be encouraging considering she was in the second call-out with Jennifer Smythe and Marina Lopez.


Just three points behind Jennifer Smythe, Colorado's Marina Lopez was looking to improve on the seventh-place spot she had taken at the Desert Muscle Classic in February. An overall winner at the NPC Junior Nationals and turning pro with her LW win at the NPC Nationals – both in 2010, Lopez waited until the new Physique division was in place before she made her pro debut.

Finishing sixth was Illinois' Mikaila Soto. A popular contestant with the audience, she made a striking presence in the lineup. Complete with a tattoo sleeve on her right arm, Soto showed a well-balanced physique, but may have suffered the stigma of being too muscular. Earning her pro card as a Masters Figure competitor at the NPC Team Universe in 2010, her three entries in pro Figure events did not net a placing higher than 10th. In the future and ultimately, the Physique division will make a much better fit for her style of body display.


Placing seventh behind Soto was Antoinette Thompson. A veteran bodybuilder since the mid-90's with an impressive contest resume to go with her years of competing, Thompson quickly learned that high placings in the new Physique division may not be as easy as it looks. As the overall winner of the NPC Team Universe in 2002 to earn her pro status, Thompson has competed 17 times as a pro bodybuilder including five Ms. Internationals and two Ms. Olympias. During that time, she has also captured two LW wins at the 2005 Charlotte Pro, and 2007 Sacramento Pro. By entering here, Thompson becomes the first bodybuilder to compete in Physique who has competed in the Ms. Olympia. Others with Ms. O experience will surely follow her lead in the immediate future.

Anchoring the final two positions were Tracy Bodner in eighth, and LaDrissa Bonivel in ninth.

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