PALM SPRINGS -- After testing their brawn, dozens of sweaty high school football players gathered on the practice field at Palm Springs High School to learn which team was the strongest Tuesday.
But before he announced the results to the fifth annual Desert Strongman Challenge, Palm Springs High School football coach Dan Murphy singled out one player -- La Quinta's Ben Simonds -- for setting a competition record in the power clean.
"Mr. Simonds, that's impressive what you did with that clean," said Murphy as players and coaches applauded.
With a power clean of 350 pounds, Simonds helped La Quinta win the eight-event competition that signals football season is approaching.
"I'm excited to get into pads and start hitting people," Simonds said.
Palm Springs placed second, followed by Palm Desert in third and Shadow Hills in fourth.
Cathedral City, Coachella Valley, Indio and Xavier Prep participated last year, but they all didn't compete Tuesday.
On the hottest day of the year so far, the teams fortunately started the challenge in the Indians' air-conditioned weight room before moving outside.
"Push!" players yelled during the first event as their teammates bench-pressed 185 pounds as many times as they could.
Once the repetitions were complete, it was time for Simonds to star in the power clean. After all of the other players had finished their lifts, they crowded around the 6-foot-5, 260-pound incoming junior to see if he could break the record of 320 pounds.
Simonds is accustomed to lifting in front of spectators. Last month, he won the 105-kilogram title in the clean and jerk for 16- and 17-year-olds at the USA Weightlifting National Youth Championships.
With everyone watching Tuesday, Simonds broke the record with a power clean of 330 pounds.
But he wasn't finished. It was only his second of three lifts.
He then attempted to match his personal record of 350 pounds. After pausing for a second to compose himself, he grunted once as he stepped forward to grab the barbell. He exhaled as he squatted down and picked up the barbell. As he successfully lifted it to his shoulders, he nodded confidently.
Simonds will solely focus on football once he returns from a weeklong weightlifting camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. He is looking forward to basking in the cool mountain air when he arrives there Sunday.
The heat was searing when players stepped out of the weight room to wrap up the competition on the Indians' practice field Tuesday.
In two relay events, teams flipped a tire and pushed a golf cart for 200 yards. In the carry medley, they had to lug a heavy bag, a keg filled with sand, two sandbags and two 80-pound kettlebells. They also competed in an obstacle course and farmer's walk.
Players were exhausted once the competition was over, but they will not have much time to rest before reconvening at their respective schools.
Practice may not officially begin until early August, but players will be busy before then. Murphy made it clear where that work will take place.
"Championships are won in the weight room," he said before announcing the final results.