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Friends lift each other up in competition
powerlifiting 1
From left to right, Jerry Shuman, James Rowe, and Robert Dowse have become friends while working out at 24/7 Fitness in Black Creek. Photo by Mark Swendra.

Three Bryan County men who formed a friendship at a local fitness center are taking their love of powerlifting to competitive heights.

James Rowe, Jerry Shuman and Robert Dowse didn’t know each other in high school (Rowe and Shuman went to Bryan County High, and Dowse to Richmond Hill High), but it was at 24/7 Fitness in Black Creek where the three met and subsequently formed a bond.

Shuman, 25, and Dowse, 22, say they were just working out for fun when Rowe, 24, convinced them that a whole new world of competitive lifting was within reach.

Rowe is the veteran of the group; possessing a strong build that brought him success on the football field. After graduating high school in 2013, he went to Georgia Southern to play ball and dabbled a year in semi-pro football. But injuries (he said he broke his wrist and tore out his knee) derailed his football career.

Today he is a biology teacher and track coach at South Effingham High School. When he’s not at the school he is committed to powerlifting, spending about two hours a day, four to five days a week, and competing in tournaments. More about that later.

The great part about lifting, he said, is “anyone can do this.” Although he admitted, “to win, you have to be strong.”

Shuman says he’s always been “short and stocky” and because he always liked to do heavy lifting (often on job sites) the idea of competitive powerlifting made sense.

“I started doing this about six or seven months ago because it’s kind of gritty,” said Shuman, who graduated from high school in 2012 and works in a family-run electrician business. “I was inspired by how everyone is supportive of each other, but competitive.”

Dowse, who graduated from high school in 2015 and currently works as a yardmaster for CSX Railroad, said he didn’t play sports in school (he weighed just 121 pounds) but enjoyed lifting as a hobby.

Now at more than 180 pounds,  Dowse said, “You don’t have to be an athlete (to lift). Anyone can lift weights. From there, you’ll fall in love with it.”

The three have begun to experience success at various powerlifting tournaments. In August, they competed at the Southeast Regional Powerlifting Competition, in Jacksonville, sanctioned by USA Powerlifting. More than 270 lifters participated.

Rowe finished 3rd in the Open 231-pound weight class. Shuman finished 5th in the Open 264-pound weight class and Dowse finished 4th in the Junior 183-pound weight class. As a team,  the RoweStrong Powerlifting trio finished first in the Open Team Category.

Each said their goal is to compete in about three meets each year. Rowe went further and said ultimately he would like to be in next year’s Nationals in Daytona and to place in the Top 25 in the country.

Good luck to them all.


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