Athletes offer tips at celebration

Allan Myers, 13, and Eric Myers, 9 check out Tara Cunningham's Olympic gold medal during Victory Sports and Fitness' Celebration of Sport on Saturday, December 20, 2014. Cunningham won the gold medal in weightlifting in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Allan Myers, 13, and Eric Myers, 9 check out Tara Cunningham's Olympic gold medal during Victory Sports and Fitness' Celebration of Sport on Saturday, December 20, 2014. Cunningham won the gold medal in weightlifting in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. CDT photo

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman and Philipsburg native Matt Adams leaned over a weight machine at Victory Sports and Fitness, and listened to two-time Olympian Tara Nott Cunningham give a seminar about weightlifting on Saturday afternoon.

He said that even though he plays professionally, there is always something new to learn from other athletes.

Adams was among local professional, amateur and collegiate athletes, and coaches and members of the public who wanted to get a taste of what it’s like to be an athlete.

On Friday and Saturday, the fitness center hosted an athlete meet and greet, with special seminars and a panel discussion with Adams; Cunningham; former Penn State and NFL player Justin Kurpeikis; volleyball player Joi McKenzie; former basketball player Michelle Simons; Colby Way, a State College Area High School grad who trained with the Buffalo Bills; former rugby player and local chiropractor Annie Zeigler; and Clearfield native Chad Zurat, a pitcher in the Colorado Rockies organization.

Victory President Rob Oshinskie said this weekend was the first time the fitness center hosted the Celebration of Sport event.

It was also a way to help raise money for Team Ream — an organization named in memory of Brandon Ream, a former Penn State football player, that financially assists disadvantaged individuals in the State College area affected by serious medical conditions.

Ream was also the son of Camp Woodward owner Gary Ream.

Victory Sports held a silent auction of signed sports memorabilia provided by Best Authentics of Camp Hill that included a Bobby Clarke Philadelphia Flyers jersey, a Derek Jeter picture and plaque, a Sean Lee Penn State jersey, a Woodward Tahoe jacket and more.

“We’ve been open for 10 years and just wanted to expand services and celebrate with something,” Oshinskie said. “It turned out to be pretty good.”

He said 60 to 70 people were in attendance who came from as far away as Altoona and Mifflinburg.

Topics included sports nutrition, fitness and workout activities.

For guests, it was a learning experience.

Jenna Morrison-Hellis said she started training with CrossFit in September. She attended the event Saturday afternoon with her husband, Tim Hellis, to get tips from athletes.

“It’s a rare chance to tap into their brains and see what they did to get as far as they are,” she said. “I’m not looking to be a pro, but want to improve my health and fitness, and keep pushing myself. … It seems like most of it is about how you train, instead of how strong you are when you train.”

That was exactly Cunningham’s point.

“The strength will come,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham gathered about two dozen people and showed them the proper way to lift weights, and described how the sport could enhance agility and strength when playing other sports.

“It’s less about how strong you are, and more about technique,” she said. “I kind of wish I did this when I was playing soccer in college.”

Cunningham was one of four women to represent the U.S. in weightlifting at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 on the first ever women’s team. She was also the first American to win an Olympic gold medal since Chuck Vinci in 1960, she said.

Four years later, Cunningham made it to her second Olympics in Athens where she placed 10th.

She married Casey Cunningham, assistant wrestling coach at Penn State, and is a stay-at-home mother to five children. She has lived in State College for five years.

When Korban Phillips-Moore, 10, spotted Adams in a bright yellow shirt at the seminar, he pointed to Adams and told his mom, Kim, “I got to get his autograph.”

Korban was prepared with three baseballs in a plastic bag, ready to be signed.

And Adams did, in fact, sign them after the panel discussion that included topics on being a collegiate and professional athlete, the recruiting process, nutrition, and the fun parts of being an athlete.

“The best part is the sportsmanship of the game,” Zeigler said about playing rugby at Penn State. “It’s a special sport because you have to work together. You can’t do anything without the help of your teammates.”

Kurpeikis — who played with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions — said being an athlete also helps with life off the field.

“It’s hard to lose, but you push through it, and go out and prove yourself,” he said. “You don’t get that playing video games where it’s easy to dunk on (Michael) Jordan. It prepares you for the real world.”

Adams said his message was to give “words of wisdom” to guests.

“I was told my whole life I would never make it,” he said. “I think being back in the community and sending a positive message to them can really make an impact on someone.”

Adams said he doesn’t participate in a lot of events like the one on Saturday, but said he was happy to give back.

“I grew up in the area and enjoy coming back to help do this,” he said.

He added that he and his wife bought a house in Julian and plan to settle there in the offseason.