Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
The Big Dogs are champions of the Go-Getters division in the 2019 Fitness Challenge. From left are team members David “Soup” Campbell, Marie Vickers, Stacy Jerina, Bill Jerina and Glenn McClellan.
Despite a flurry of obstacles, Just Weight defended its title as Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge champion.
In the new Go-Getters division, newcomers the Big Dogs finished as the top dogs.
The 120 players on the 24 five-member Fitness Challenge teams shed a combined 2,010.75 pounds during the weight-loss competition to benefit nonprofit service organizations. That’s 7.36 percent of starting weight lost — and an average 16.75 pounds per person — over eight weeks.
The teams earned a total $8,060 for their designated do-good groups.
In was the first time in 18 years of the Fitness Challenge that it was divided into two divisions: the Dynamos, veteran players and teams who placed in the top five in the previous five years; and the Go-Getters, new players and veterans who finished lower in the standings in past years.
“We were like the walking wounded,” Debbie Ryan of Just Weight said.
“I don’t know how we did it,” Miguel Medina said.
Just Weight, one of the lightest teams in the competition at a combined starting weight of 950.25 pounds, shrunk by 15.3 percent to repeat as Fitness Challenge champions. They earned $825 for their Alzheimer Network in Youngstown.
The Slimsons finished second in the Dynamos division at 13 percent, followed by Thinning the Herd at 11.6 percent of its starting weight lost.
The snags for Just Weight began in the first week when Medina, of Southington, became sick. Then Ryan, of West Farmington, came down with pneumonia.
“I couldn’t work out. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t walk. This was terrible,” she said.
Rosanne Cabot of Newton Falls took a weeklong Florida vacation. When she returned, her left foot and leg were banged up in an automobile accident that grounded her for a while.
Team captain Jim Miller’s life was disrupted when General Motors transferred him to Toledo in early March.
Medina’s daughter, Clarissa Medina of Southington, already had started another weight-loss program and the Challenge began right as she hit a plateau.
“This was the hardest 10 pounds I ever lost,” she said.
Yet, collectively, the determined quintet pared 145 pounds, led by Miller with 44.75 pounds, Miguel Medina, 38, Ryan, 27.25, and Cabot, 24.5.
“We all worked together well,” Miller said. “If someone had a bad week, we just picked up the slack for them. We supported each other through this strenuous journey.”
“Obstacles are just a part of life. It’s how you react that makes you a champion, and this team is that,” Miller said.
“You set your mind to it and go,” said Miguel Medina, who ate six calculated meals per day and worked out six to seven days per week.
“It’s hard work,” Cabot said. “But if you follow the diet and exercise, it will happen. And you have to be competitive — really competitive.”
“Veggies and water,” Ryan said.
Will Just Weight return in 2020 for a triple crown?
“I hope not,” Miguel Medina said.
“Oh, no, I hope not,” his daughter echoed.
“I’m still working out almost every day,” Miguel Medina said.
“You can’t just stop,” Ryan said. “You can’t change your eating habits either. You’ll get sick.”
Early in the Fitness Challenge, the Big Dogs invested in team hoodies and T-shirts. The fronts bore the team name. The backs proclaimed, “Some wish for it. We work for it.”
“It was not easy at all,” member Stacy Jerina of Howland said.
“It was not fun,” her husband and teammate Bill Jerina said. “The competition was fun. I don’t like losing.”
“Yeah, the competition made it fun,” Stacy Jerina said. “It kind of motivated us, the competition.”
“And the charity,” teammate Marie Vickers said.
The Big Dogs will donate $815 to the Voice of the Trumbull Pound Dogs, volunteers working with the Trumbull County Dog Pound.
The Big Dogs started off at a hefty 1,284 pounds, dropped 178.75 pounds and scored a 13.9 percent slim-down.
Mission Slimpossible finished second at 11.8 percent and the LPJ Lean Machine came on strong in the final weeks to run its way into third place at 8.5 percent.
“It was a very good experience,” Vickers said. “It was what I needed to get on the road to losing weight. And to do it with other people was very helpful. I lost 28 pounds.”
“We’re still going,” said Stacy Jerina, who dropped 26.5 pounds. Bill lost 29.5.
“We’ve got some more to lose,” she said. “We might not be as strict now.”
“I’ve got to keep going,” David “Soup” Campbell of Warren said. He said he’s feeling much better after losing 38.25 pounds. “I have back pain. This helps me out, the weight off the body.”
He said his exercise was restricted to the recumbent bike.
Meanwhile, team captain Glenn “Big Dog” McClellan of Warren worked about every exercise that came his way en route to banishing 56.5 pounds over eight weeks — and nearly 200 pounds over the last two years.
“Elliptical, bike, treadmill, walking, Nautilus machines, free weights… I haven’t felt this competitive in years,” he said.
Will he backslide now that the 2019 Fitness Challenge is in the books?
“I had that one hot dog,” McClellan said. “I said I was going to back off but I was at the gym for 3 1/2 hours last night.”
If the group would return next year, it would move into the Dynamos division.
“Maybe we’ll come back try to knock off the big boys and be a two-division champion,” McClellan said with a laugh. But it’s not likely they’ll return, he said.
McClellan had words for the whole field of 24 teams: “For all the competitors, we are all winners. I hope we can continue with our goals to get healthy. For the charities, the big winners, they will benefit from the Challenge to continue doing the good work they do each and every day.”