‘This is part of his legacy’

Jesse Marunde Invitational brings top Strongmen to Sequim

  • Friday, March 21, 2014 4:06pm
  • Sports

It wasn’t hard for Callie Marunde to fill out the lineup for this year’s Strongman competition. After all, all she had to do was say it was still on, and she’d hear, "Tell me the date – I’ll be there," on the other end.

A more difficult feat, she notes, is finding ways to thank the Strongman competitors and the Sequim community for their generosity.

Marunde and a host of the world’s top Strongman competitors are flocking to Sequim for what was once Jesse Marunde’s own Sequim Strongman Competition, part of the first big weekend of the Sequim Irrigation Festival.

Jesse Marunde died last July during a workout, and now his wife, Callie, and others are continuing the Strongman event in his honor.

The Jesse Marunde Invitational Strongman Contest, a competition of superhuman strength and agility, is slated for a 2 p.m. start on May 3 just outside Tarcisio’s Italian restaurant.

"(Jesse) took a lot of pride that he was from Sequim," Callie Marunde says, recounting the ways locals supported her and the couple’s daughter, J.J.

"I hope they know how much I appreciate it. This (event) is part of his legacy."

It’s a legacy that shows the impact of Jesse Marunde’s popularity, as a number of the nation’s and world’s top Strongman competitors are making the trek to small-town Sequim.

"Look at the card," says John "Sarge" Allen, one of Jesse Marunde’s training partners and a close family friend. "It’s the who’s who of Strongman."

Callie Marunde says she even had to turn some competitors away as the lineup card filled up.

"It’s just unbelievable the support we’ve received from the Strongman community," Allen says. "They’re coming out for a paltry sum."

Honoring a hero

Jesse Marunde was born in Alaska and spent his formative years in Sequim, graduating from Sequim High School in 1998. After receiving a football scholarship to Montana State University to play tight end, he began competing in Olympic weightlifting events, against the wishes of school football officials.

At age 19, he placed third in the heavyweight class at the

Junior Nationals. That same year, his son Dawson was born.

Jesse Marunde became a dominating figure in Strongman competitions, finishing second in the 2005 MetRx World’s Strongest Man.

He ran a gym in town with Callie and was personal trainer and workout partner for dozens of locals.

He also brought top athletes to Sequim for a Strongman competition at the Irrigation Festival each year since 2005.

After double knee surgery in 2006 – one to repair a knee, the other an elective surgery to return to Strongman competitions – he was planning another run at the World’s Strongest Man contest in Anaheim, Calif.

After a third-place finish at the Venice Beach Grand Prix that year, he qualified for the 2007 WSM event.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder rarely took a workout lightly and after a strenuous one on July 25, 2007, he collapsed and died.

Though his body was gone, Jesse Marunde’s memory lived on. Callie Marunde recalls how locals poured out their hearts to her and Jesse’s children, noting that a group of business owners helped build her a new gymnasium to help with family expenses.

Friends and fellow Strongmen recall how Jesse Marunde seemed to relish the cheers and applause at the events, whether it was for him or his challengers.

That’s why Callie Marunde plans to have a round of applause rather than a moment of silence for her husband Saturday.

"I know Jesse wouldn’t want us to be sad at this competition," she says. "I thought about a moment of silence. But no, I think a round of applause (is better). That’s what he would have wanted."

Callie Marunde says she hopes to keep the event going for as long as she can – in part to help her daughter J.J. get to know her father.

"We need to remember him," Callie says. "J.J. only got to know him for six weeks. This is the only way she’ll get to know him."

The Strongman

competition events

� Car deadlift for reps (Ruddell Auto Mall sponsor

� Tire flip (Les Schwab Tire sponsor

� Arm-over-arm truck pull (Hazard Financial and Allen Charters sponsors

� Press medley: 179-pound clean-and-press with dumbbell; 255-pound log lift; 320-pound axle lift; and 342-pound log lift (Hazard Financial sponsor

� Stones: a five-stone run from 28-365 pounds, plus 465-pound bonus stone (7 Cedars Casino and KC Construction sponsors

Other event sponsors: Tarcisio’s restaurant, Grassland Beef, Quality Inn, Thomas Lumber

2008 Jesse Marunde Invitational: The competitors

2008 Jesse Marunde Invitational: The competitors

Breck Gault

A Sequim native, Gault competed in Jesse Marunde’s Strongman competitions in Sequim since 2006. He finished fourth in the West Coast Strongest Man in 2005 (lightweight division) and first among the middleweights at the Washington’s Strongest Man and Woman Contest in 2006.

Karl Gillingham

All the way from Northfield, Minn., Gillingham has been competing in Strongman events since 1998 and has been ranked in the top five nationally each year he has competed. He won the first U.S. championship he entered, and since then has competed in more than 40 national and international contests. Gillingham, 43, is 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds.

Odd Haugen

Mr. Norway in 1970 and, in 1999 the Strongest Man in America, this 58-year-old also earned the title of Strongest Man in Hawaii in 2000, 2001 and 2003. A senior executive for Apex Fitness Group, Haugen is 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds.

Grant Higa

A Maple Valley resident originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, the 5-foot-8 Higa is a certified personal trainer weighing in at 290 pounds. The 37-year-old has been competing in Hawaii and stateside ever since, including each of the past three years at the Sequim Strongman competition. He was second in the 2006 Hawaii’s Strongest Man event, behind Marunde.

Dave Ostlund

Another Minnesota native, Ostlund is a World’s Strongest Man competitor and winner of the 2007 Venice Beach Grand Prix Series. Ostlund added rocks and tires to his weight training regimen in 2001 and placed first in his first Strongman contest in Wisconsin. He finished sixth in the most recent World’s Strongest Man event. The 26-year-old is 6-foot-7 and 335 pounds.

Matt Parkes

The 30-year-old Victoria, British Columbia, native claims he began training for Strongman events by eating steak as early as age 1. Parkes entered a bodybuilding competition at age 20 and placed fourth in the junior division at the B.C. Bodybuilding Championships in 1998. He’s regarded as one of the top Strongman competitors in Canada. Parkes is 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds.

Phil Pfister

A Charleston, W.Va. native, Pfister made history in 2006 when he became the first American to win the World’s Strongest Man competition since 1982. Previous best finishes in the World’s Strongest Man were fourth place in 1998 in Tangier, and fourth place again in 2001 in Victoria Falls. Last year he placed fifth at the World’s Strongest Man event. A 6-foot-6, 345-pound behemoth, he’s worked as a firefighter in Charleston since 1999. The 37-year-old made an appearance on the "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" television show, winning $25,000.

Magnus Samuelsson

A native of Sweden, Samuelsson was the World’s Strongest Man winner in 1998 in Morocco and the Sweden Super-Series Grand Prix winner 2004. A frequenter of the top strength contests, Samuelsson has reached the World’s Strongest Man podium five times. He also holds the record for reaching the event’s finals 10 times, a feat he achieved between 1995-2007. Nicknamed "The King of the Stones," Samuelsson, 38, is a full-time farmer in a 6-foot-6, 343-pound body.

Corey St. Clair

Hailing from Eagle, Idaho, St. Clair is a World’s Strongest Man competitor. He took third in the Golden State Strongman competition in Fresno, Calif., and eighth in the World’s Strongest Man SuperSeries in Venice, Calif., earlier this year. He owns eight event or series titles, including the Big Sky’s Strongest Man-Pro Division (Montana, 2002). St. Clair, 31, weighs in at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds.

Marshall White

This Port Angeles native earned fifth place in the West Coast Strongest Man in the heavyweight division in Woodinville two years ago and earned his pro card in April of last year. White, 26, has been invited to compete in the 2008 World’s Strongest Man SuperSeries, a qualifier for the World’s Strongest Man Competition. A mortician by profession, "M-Dub" is 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds.

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