JUNE 21, 2003
It's not every day that women fall for men in skirts, and Victoria Lucero, now 38, certainly wasn't planning on it.
But when she fell for the Highland Games, the competition based on Scottish tradition in which strong men dress in kilts and throw heavy kegs, hammers and telephone poles around like footballs, she also ended up falling for an athlete. A man, that is, who happened to be wearing a kilt.
At the games, she encountered other women spectators. But these women, Victoria claims, had another agenda: They would stand at the fence that divided the action from the stands and ask the men to show a little leg. They'd beg for a feel of the competitors' thick upper-arm muscles. They'd offer to help the athletes lift up their kilts.
These women acted as if the men of the Highland Games were rock stars. Victoria says she was most definitely not one of the groupies. "I'd talk to the guys," she says. "But I was not making the rounds."
Mark Wechter says he could tell Victoria was different when he first met her at the 2000 Highland Games. The 32-year-old physics and chemistry teacher claims he had seen a lot of man-hungry women in his eight years of competing, women who, he says, "just want to party with the athletes, get drunk and have one-night stands."
He adds, "I'm not into that."
It was clear after their conversations that Victoria's interest in Mark was as genuine as her interest in the games. He was competing all day but stole time between rounds to talk to her. Before she left the competition, she gave him her phone number.
When the two began dating, spending time together was even more of a balancing act than the usual cat-and-mouse games that come with new relationships. Victoria lived first in Gresham, then in West Linn, and then in Beaverton. Mark's apartment was in Lake Oswego. For him, managing a classroom, a rigorous workout schedule and a relationship was a difficult juggling act.
Mark started graduate school in the fall of '01. This made his schedule too full, so he broke off his relationship with Victoria.
The breakup didn't last long, however, and when they did get back together, Victoria moved in with Mark. She also started working out with him at the same gym. At first, she shied away from the free weights Mark uses to get pumped for competitions. Over time, though, she developed a curiosity about Mark's training for strongman contests and the Highland Games.
Last summer, Victoria gave up her status as a spectator (and distanced herself even more from those groupies) when she started competing. She was the women's winner at her inaugural Highland Games, a great feat for a first-timer--except she was the only woman entered in the competition that year.
She scored another victory off the playing field that June, when Mark proposed on her birthday. A year later, this past June, the two were married in a full Scottish ceremony, kilts and all, in Mark's hometown of Brookings, Ore.
The couple traveled around the world on a honeymoon, but they didn't take off for the trip immediately after the wedding reception. The delay wasn't because of a glitch in the paperwork (though that caused a setback later, when the couple attempted to travel to Russia). No, a much more pressing matter was at hand.
Just one week after the wedding, the newlyweds spent a grueling summer day competing in Portland's first local strongman competition, the Hell on the Hill games.