The morning of Saturday, May 4, was rainy and dim, but the energy inside First Baptist Woodstock was alive with light. It was clear that the Hogue Classic Fitness Competition was not a time of mourning but of celebration of life and legacy.

Hogue Classic Fitness Competition 2024_Photo Credit-Jessica McAdam-Angel Eyes Photography

The competition took place on Saturday, May 4, inside First Baptist Church in Woodstock. (Photo Credit: Jessica McAdam/Angel Eyes Photography)

John Szarszewski, owner of HEW Fitness on Towne Lake Parkway, made a leap of faith and created the competition in a few short months to benefit HEW Fitness instructor Mykal Hogue and his family, who lost father and husband Harold in January. He says that if anyone embodied HEW’s slogan—Faith, Family, and Fitness—it was Harold.

“I reached out to Mykal with the idea and said, ‘Your dad, he lived it,’” says John. “He was this fitness boss, but was quick to share his testimony with anybody he ever came across. He was also quick to sing his wife’s and children’s praises. I never left a moment with Harold that I didn’t feel better about myself and life in general.”

Harold Fitzgerald Hogue, Sr.

Harold Hogue | Ice Train | Photo Credit-J. Stoll-1996 World Champion Wrestling, Inc.

Harold “Ice Train” Hogue, 1996 (Photo Credit: J. Stoll/World Champion Wrestling, Inc.)

Athleticism was a constant in Harold Hogue’s life. He began lifting weights at the age of twelve. He excelled in the Detroit Police Athletic League [PAL], a youth outreach organization in his hometown which partners with the police department and community volunteers, focusing on athletic, academic, and leadership development programs. To honor Harold’s athletic legacy, the Detroit PAL later retired his No. 35 jersey in 2022.

By the time he graduated St. Martin DePorres High School in 1984, he was already a well-accomplished athlete, having won three State Championship titles as star defensive tackle. He continued his football career at Kentucky State University and then Central State University in Ohio. He was inducted into the Central State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2021.

After college, Harold was a sought-after athlete by several NFL teams, but decided instead to pursue a professional wrestling career. He first made a name for himself as a professional wrestler in 1993 under the ring name Ice Train. He found success in World Championship Wrestling and the Catch Wrestling Association and ended his twenty-eight-year career a respected man.

Though he left the ring for the last time in 2001, Harold never left the fitness world. He spent the next years in the gym training people of all fitness levels, from student athletes to professionals.

Faith, Family, Fitness

Harold’s greatest accomplishment was his family. He shared his love of fitness with his children, using it as a tool to instill in them his values and faith.

Hogue Classic Fitness Competition | Photo Courtesy of Mykal Hogue

The Hogue Family: Myles, Bishop, Yuri, Harold Sr., Tiana, and Mykal Hogue | NOT PICTURED: Cynnamon, Carmen, and Harold Jr. (Photo Courtesy of the Hogue family)

“Mykal has been mentored through his father leading him through a strong foundation in Christ,” says John. “Harold was always Mykal’s coach. We get to be that voice for our members as they come in. We get to pour into them, uplift them, rebuild them as these workouts break them down, but Harold was the one that did that for Mykal.”

Putting on a brand new, large-scale event in three months in Harold’s honor was not an easy task, but when John called, the Woodstock community answered.

“Everyone had to blindly say yes,” explains John. “We were able to make nine quick phone calls, and those businesses said ‘yes’ to sponsoring when we had nothing to show them other than the vision we had. They believed in us and the why behind it.”

Britton Felber, owner of event title sponsor Mission Windows & Remodeling, echoes that sentiment. “When John called me, we were aware of need and the tragedy that had taken place in our tight-knit community,” says Britton. “I’ll never forget, when he called, he said, ‘Hey, do you have the money in your budget to help us out?’ and I said, ‘Nope, but what you want me to do?’ Our mission at Mission Windows & Remodeling is that every project saves the life of a child, so this just really felt right to our lane: being able to help those who are most vulnerable in our community.” Britton has already claimed Mission Windows & Remodeling’s spot as title sponsor for next year’s Hogue Classic Fitness Competition.

All that Harold accomplished in life proved to live on through the local community as they rallied together for “Faith, Family, and Fitness.” Many sported shirts printed with a graphic of Harold, which were specially designed for the competition. Others wore homemade costumes bearing Harold’s moniker. All competitors and spectators—young and old—hugged, laughed, and cheered one another on.

Hogue Classic Fitness Competition 2024_Photo Credit-Jessica McAdam-Angel Eyes Photography

Mykal Hogue (L) posed with two competitors sporting costumes honoring Harold “Ice Train” Hogue. (Photo Credit: Jessica McAdam/Angel Eyes Photography)

“It brings life to the church,” says John. “The church is the body, it’s the people in action working together and being able to do something we love which is fitness. It’s been fun to see the shift in the energy in the gym the last month.”

Joy Foster, Woodstock resident and HEW Fitness patron, jumped at the chance to honor the family of a HEW coach. “Anything we can do to support Mykal’s family, we’re all for,” Joy says. Even those who never met Harold came to show their support. One such competitor is Brian Lawrence, who describes his participation in the event as “gentleman’s honor.”

Hogue Classic Fitness Competition 2024_Photo Credit-Jessica McAdam-Angel Eyes Photography

Joy Foster (R) partnered with Emily Valenti (L) as teammates to compete in the inaugural Hogue Classic. (Photo Credit: Jessica McAdam/Angel Eyes Photography)

Along with honoring Harold’s legacy, John wanted to ease the Hogues’ financial burden of losing their main provider. He also wants the Hogue Classic Fitness Competition to become an annual event that will both provide for the Hogue family in years to come and serve as an entrepreneurial pursuit for Mykal.

“In a year or two as they’ve restructured how they’re operating and figured out their finances, I would love for this event to provide for a big family trip every year where they can celebrate the life of their dad and husband, and have quality family time,” says John.

For now, Mykal’s family has grown to include the bonds he has formed at HEW Fitness, and families provide.

“Hopefully as it morphs and evolves, it can turn into a business entity for Mykal,” says John. “As a young man who works here at our gym, I can only provide him with so much based on the limitations we have, but if I can help him create something powerful, he can take ownership. In the near future, I see him having his own separate business entity of the Hogue Classic. It’s going to be a powerful tool that he can now use in perpetuity.”

Hogue Classic Fitness Competition 2024_Photo Credit-Jessica McAdam-Angel Eyes Photography

Jenn Kandt of Kando Homes was both a participant and a sponsor of the event. (Photo Credit: Jessica McAdam/Angel Eyes Photography)

The competition raised $10,000 to benefit the Hogues as they navigate life after loss. To the Hogue family, the meaning behind the event is priceless.

Mykal says he is overwhelmed at the support he and his family have received in their time of need and proud of the legacy his father leaves behind. “There are no words I can use to express the true meaning of this event,” says Mykal. “My dad was legendary in all facets of life whether it was parenting, lifting weights, being a Christ-follower. He did everything to the best of his ability, and that’s his legacy. That he brought people together through family, faith, and fitness. It means everything to have my family and the community here to support us.”

Harold’s wife, Tiana, felt the event, with faith at its core, fully encapsulated who her husband was. She remarks that striving for athletic excellence can feel unattainable, and thus unfulfilling, but through faith, it is possible to find a greater purpose through fitness. “Sometimes I feel that with athletics, you have to be the star athlete,” she says. “But even a mom recovering postpartum is that athlete. A thirteen-year-old boy trying to make the team, he’s that athlete. We’re all that athlete because God gave us our bodies.”

Hogue Classic Fitness Competition 2024_Photo Credit-Jessica McAdam-Angel Eyes Photography

Members of the Hogue family attended the inaugural fitness competition, with matriarch Tiana (L) delivering an emotional speech to attendees. (Photo Credit: Jessica McAdam/Angel Eyes Photography)

This was Harold’s mission in life, and through the love he has poured into his family and the team at HEW Fitness, that mission lives on.

 

 

 

You May Also Like…

Tea, Sweets, & Joy at The Mill

A Boy From Blue Ridge: Mark Wills

Building a Village: Towne Lake Mama

Not Your Typical Festival

Rewriting the Book on Menswear

 

 

 

SUBSCRIBE TO ENJOY CHEROKEE MAGAZINE