The Kamloops Blazers gathered around a white piece of paper taped to the wall outside their dressing room.
The club’s fitness-test results were posted and the verbal jousting had begun.
“It was very competitive this year,” said Dev Mitra, the Blazers’ strength and conditioning coach.
“We re-did the format this year because the coaching staff decided they want to lay down that competitive feel from Day 1.”
In years past, Kamloops would split into small groups across the Tournament Capital Centre for testing.
Mitra formed much larger groups this season when testing took place at the TCC on Thursday, Aug. 23.
“For example, in the mile-and-a-half run, we put 12 or 13 guys on the line at the same time to push each other,” said Mitra, who owns private fitness company Total Results Training.
“You can’t hide. Everyone knows where you are.”
There were six events — the 1.5-mile run, 400-metre sprints, bench press, long jump, push-ups and sit-ups.
Brendan Ranford was the big winner, finishing first overall.
He was first in the 1.5-mile race with a time of 8:24; fourth in the 400m, averaging 66 seconds over three attempts; tied for first with Dylan Willick and Brock Balson in the 19- and 20-year old bench press division, lifting 205 pounds 15 times; fifth in long jump, jumping 262 centimetres; third in push-ups with 76; and third in sit-ups with 64.
Category winners were, in the 400m, Austin Madaisky and Colin Smith (both averaging 65 seconds), in long jump, Aspen Sterzer (272 centimetres), in push-ups, Colin Smith (85), and in sit-ups, Madaisky (71).
The 17- and 18-year old bench press division was won by Matt Needham, who pushed 185 pounds 17 times.
Connor Clouston crushed the competition in the 15- and 16-year-old category, lifting 150 pounds 23 times. Second-best in that division was 18.
“Some of the biggest surprises came from the younger guys,” Mitra said.
“Connor Clouston, Evan Tordiff and Nick Chyzowski. In the past, you wouldn’t expect the young guys to finish up in the top 10 or 12 like that.”
Clouston, 16, placed eighth overall, while 15-year-olds Tordiff and Chyzowski were 13th and 14th, respectively.
Rounding out the overall top five behind Ranford were Willick, Madaisky, Smith and Sterzer.
JC Lipon might have cracked the top three, if he did not cramp before his last 400m attempt, rendering him unable to run, which affected his overall score.
On the other end of the spectrum, returning defencemen Brady Gaudet and Tyler Bell did not have great performances, finishing 25th and 34th overall, respectively.
Mitra said it’s often the case athletes focus too much on one discipline in the off-season.
“You look at the guys that finish well ahead of everyone else and they take care of everything they need to,” Mitra said.
“They’ve looked after their cardio. They’ve looked after their strength. They’ve looked after their power. They’ve taken care of all that stuff.”