Shannon Jackson entered the Northern Cup Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie uncertain of what to expect.
But once Saturday’s competition was done, the rookie in figure competitions ended up with some hardware and another competition on the horizon—the provincials.
Jackson topped the figure (medium) novice division in the Soo, punching her ticket to the Ontario championships slated June 19 in London.
“Placing first in my division, and second in the masters category, that just took me right over the edge because I did not expect to place anywhere near that, so I came away on a big high,” Jackson enthused.
“It’s funny, I’m still awestruck and stunned that I did that well the very first time out,” she admitted.
With the Northern Cup being her first-ever competition, Jackson kept her expectations low, instead just hoping to put her best foot forward.
“My goal was to reach this competition and to get on stage, and to do the best I could do,” she explained.
In the novice division, all the competitors were participating in their first show. So while Jackson’s nerves were getting to her a little bit, the other women were feeling similar emotions.
“It is a little bit nerve-wracking, but the other women going up with me were all in the same boat because we’re all novice competitors,” Jackson reasoned.
“It’s everyone’s first time, so you’re kind of nervous together.
“You just get up there and try to present yourself as best you can without letting your nerves show,” she noted.
Jackson added the show was more about quality than quantity, but the athletes who were on hand were top-notch.
“It wasn’t an overly large show, but the quality of competitors there was high, and I think that we did our town very proud,” she lauded.
Three other locals attended the Northern Cup Challenge, as well. Alana Pierce took home second place in the figure (tall) category, Kailey Curtis earned second place in figure (medium) and bikini, and Andrea Turgeon came third in figure (tall) and fifth in masters.
“The three of us did great,” enthused Pierce. “For myself, personally, I felt that I performed better.
“I had more confidence on stage.
“I placed better. I reached my goal of top three,” she added. “It was really enjoyable this time around.”
Pierce felt she had improved in all areas, which helped her to improve on a fourth-place finish a year ago.
“The judges are looking for the whole package in terms of the hair, the tan, the suit, the physique,” she remarked.
“I think that came together better,” she added. “The posing, the smile, I think was better.”
Pierce said she wasn’t planning on attending the provincials, opting instead to focus on a run next year.
Turgeon and Curtis also decided to forego the trip.
But Jackson confirmed Monday afternoon that she will make the trip to London—an unexpected surprise since she only began preparing for the Northern Cup Challenge in November.
However, she had been working out avidly for about five years before starting to consider delving into competition.
“I kind of always thought that I wanted to try something in the competitive field, but not bodybuilding . . . I didn’t want to step that far into it,” she admitted.
“I think that what drove me to that was just being in the gym every day and I wanted to work towards a new goal.
“I hired trainers to see if I could be ready to compete in a competition that soon,” she added.
Looking back, Jackson felt she was in reasonable shape entering training, but still noticed significant changes as her body began to take a competitive shape.
“Pretty much my whole body was transformed,” she explained. “I was already in, I would say, decent shape, but in order to be eligible to compete in this, you have to sculpt a whole body, your whole physique.
“You’re judged on everything, from how you present yourself on stage to the development of your muscles.
“You don’t want to be too thin, but you don’t want to be too muscular,” she stressed.
“You want to be in between that—an athletic type, a feminine look.”
Right away, Jackson was placed on a strict diet and workout routine, when she pledges she followed to the letter. However, keeping her eyes on the prize was a bit of a challenge for the first-time competitor.
“I think just staying focused on the training and dieting [was the most difficult part],” she remarked. “Just getting in the mindset of being able to compete and stay focused on the goal.”
But Jackson was able to strengthen her resolve and keep to the program right up to the competition.
“Your last week of training can make or break you in your competition—even your last couple of days if you don’t water-load [drink large amounts of water] properly or sodium-deplete properly,” she explained.
“You don’t want to go in with any type of water retention. You want to have a tight, flat look.
“One of the most difficult aspects of it is being able to focus on the manipulation of your body so you’re contest-ready for that day,” she concluded.
The surprise result for Jackson meant a snap decision to attend the provincial competition, which she didn’t consider to be in the realm of possibility entering the weekend.
In the end, though, she made the decision to attend—again without expectations.
“I think that if I wouldn’t have placed that high, I probably wouldn’t have thought about even the possibility of going to provincials,” she conceded.
“But now I am looking, because I placed first and second, I’m thinking that I would like to take it one step further and go for the experience.
“Because I’m already in contest-prep mode, I’m basically right back on the diet program and the training program for the next two weeks, and away you go.”
Jackson thinks that if she decided not to do it, then she might regret it afterwards.
“If I never decide to compete again, I may wish that I would have taken it one step further and went for the experience of the provincials,” she reasoned.
Jackson wrapped up by adding that the training has done her a world of good.
“I’ve never felt better and I’ve never been in better shape in my entire life, and I’m going to be 40!” she enthused.