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Brandy Carestia, the owner of Define by Design fitness training, will be competing in the figure category at the Big Sky and Montana State Bodybuilding Championships on Saturday in Missoula. The event was last held in 1997, and organizers expect more than 100 competitors. Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian

Jeff Kovick first competed in the Montana State Bodybuilding Championships in 1989.

He was 19.

Now, at 41 and the owner of the Max Muscle store in Missoula, he's promoting a championship that's been dormant for the past dozen years.

"The last time we had a state championship was in 1997 or so, and the reason is basically that no one was crazy enough to put one on," said Kovick, who owns Max Muscle with his wife Kati.

The Kovicks are actually hosting two championships - a Montana title and a Big Sky Championship, which will serve as a national qualifier event for larger contests held under the banner of the National Physique Committee.

"NPC is the largest sanctioning body, and that's what is allowing us to bring in some pros and bill it as a national qualifier," said Kovick.

That means competitors and spectators will have a chance to meet, talk to and gawk at the likes of bodybuilding legends Phil "The Gift" Heath and James "Flex" Lewis.

"They'll be up on stage and do their routines, and they'll also be around signing autographs and just talking to people," said Kovick.

Kovick said the idea to restart the championships came to him slowly over the past couple of years.

"You know, since we've had the store three years we've had a chance to bring some big talent into Missoula, with Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman," Kovick said. "We've built up a lot of connections in the business, with all the supplement companies, and it just started to seem like something we might be able to pull off."


By the time the competition rolls round on March 27, Kovick expects to have more than 100 competitors in bodybuilding, fitness, figure and bikini contests.

"We've got something for everyone, from teenagers to masters class and from bikini comps to heavyweight bodybuilders," Kovick said. "We'll have people who are competing for the first time and people who compete regularly."

One person who won't be competing is Kovick himself.

"My competition is going to be putting this on and having it succeed so that we can keep doing it year after year," Kovick said. "That's competition enough for me."

Of the 90 people already entered, the majority are women - among them, Brandy Carestia, owner of Define by Design fitness training, who will compete in the figure category.

"That's really the trend with women focusing on the figure and bikini contests," Kovick said. "Those are all about tone and not being overly muscular, and that's what the women like to go with these days."

Kovick said competitors from six states have already signed up for the event, which will be judged by nationally certified judges.

"This is a competition level that in the past you'd have to drive to Seattle to take part in," Kovick said. "We're just glad that we can give back to Missoula and bring this event back and keep it coming back."

Reporter Michael Moore can be reached at 523-5252 or at


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