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STRENGTH THROUGH JOY

When Diann "Dee" Smothers of Jefferson, S.C., came to Haverford in 1987 to concentrate in English, she had no idea she’d eventually evolve into a library science worker, physical fitness trainer, and strongwoman competitor. But that’s what happened.

By day she works at Snell Library at Northeastern University in Boston as a research and instruction business librarian on the reference desk. In that capacity, along with 13 other “R & I” librarians, she instructs 10,000 students a year on the fine points of research, data recovery, computer shortcuts, and general library maneuvering.

But at night she heads for Healthworks, a small women’s gym, part of a Boston-area chain, where she works out, and teaches other women how to maximize body strength and get into the best possible shape. Along the way, she began competing herself, and can now pull a 25,000-lb.dump truck (from a harness) a short distance, and deadlift 245 lbs. She is 5’4”, 143 lbs, and is now 37 years old.

“After working at various jobs on leaving Haverford—I was a technical writer at one point, and a physical trainer to supplement my income—I got my master’s degree in library and information science at the University of South Carolina [in ’95]. I then worked at M.I.T. in the library. But I’d gotten interested in physical sport a while ago, and a training partner I had, John was his name, suggested I looked pretty strong, and might want to try competition. I remember seeing some strongwoman events on television four to five years ago, and got into it,” Smothers explains.

Among the events she participates in, in addition to the Truck Pull and Deadlift, are the Farmer’s Walk, Atlas Stones, Tire Flip, Axel Press, Viking Press, and Conan’s Wheel: “In the Farmer’s Walk, you pick up two objects from the ground—they could be handles with weights or suitcases—different objects hanging by your side—and try to walk 50 to 100 feet without staggering too much!” she laughs. “With the Atlas Stones you pick up big stones weighing from 120 to 150 lbs. to 240 lbs. each and pile them on a platform. That’s one of my good events. Showed pretty well with those big round stones in the Kansas Strongest Man & Woman contest recently.

"In the Tire Flip you try to flip over a huge truck tire with one motion. In the Conan’s Wheel you find a pivot point in the middle of the bar, hold the bar in the crook of your arms, and try to lift smoothly, with a heavy weight hanging from the middle. In the Viking Press you have a two-handled contraption that changes shape from contest to contest, but you’re trying to get it up in a fluid move. The Axel Press [see picture] is really like a heavyweight standard weight bar with conventional weights at each end, and you want to lift as cleanly as possible."

“I did particularly well with the Atlas Stones and Conan’s Wheel in the Massachusetts State Championship,” Smothers says modestly, from her job at Snell Library. “No, I don’t want to turn pro or anything...Just want to do this while I can. It’s healthy, and it’s good for your confidence.”

—John Lombardi

Students cross in front of Founders Hall.

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