Just Weight trims down to big Fitness Challenge lead

Waistlines are narrowing. But the gap between first and second place keeps growing fatter in the 17th annual Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge. The team known as Just Weight now leads by nearly 2 full percentage points.

Meanwhile, last year’s championship team, which has been lurking in sixth place for weeks, is making its move. U C Us Again has popped up to fourth place with two weeks to go in the eight-week community weight loss competition to benefit nonprofit service groups.

After six weeks, Just Weight has shed 12.8 percent of its starting weight. Do It Again trails at just less than 11 percent of starting weight lost.

They are the only two teams that have lost more than 10 percent of their starting weight.

“I think we are in trouble,” Do It Again captain Brian McConnell said. “We are almost 2 percent behind and we have not had a good week in a while. We have to try to hold on to second place.”

Just Weight captain Stephanie Iacozili isn’t considering that a concession speech.

“We are very excited about the progress we’ve made taking care of ourselves, but the door is certainly not closed for the other teams,” Iacozili said. “If we don’t take care of business this week, we won’t be able to bring the championship home. We have to worry about ourselves, not what the other teams are doing.”

The top five is rounded out by Believers Disappearing Act, still in third place at 9.6 percent of starting weight lost; U C Us Again at 8.8 percent; and Low Ton, which slipped into fifth at 8.6 percent.

“We hope to slingshot into second,” Believers captain Rudy Pekarovic said. “We had a bad week but we need to put that behind us and really buckle down.”

Last week, Pekarovic suggested he’d try blasting “Gonna Fly Now” over the phone in early morning wake-up calls to his teammates to fire them up. It backfired, he said.

“Maybe this week I’ll play a rendition of ‘The Impossible Dream.’ One thing for sure is that we feel a lot better and our wardrobes have expanded to items that were too snug just six weeks ago,” he said. “The last two weeks ought to be very interesting, as Arte Johnson used to say.”

Speaking of snug, it’s a tight squeeze for sixth and seventh places. Heavy Decisions barely holds a lead over Four and a Half Full-Grown Men, 7.74 percent to 7.72 percent.

“What can I say?,” Four and Half team captain Mike Rossi said. “We’re regrouping, still hustling. Gotta run. Get it?”

Overall, the 85 players from the 17 teams across Trumbull County have improved their eating habits and increased their exercise to the tune of 1,406 pounds lost over six weeks. That’s an average of 16.5 pounds a person. It works out to an average of 7.4 percent of starting weight lost.


Here’s how the Fitness Challenge works: Each five-player team pays a $250 entry fee and designates a nonprofit service group that it will represent. All teams are guaranteed to send at least $225 of that money to their chosen service organization. The top 10 teams send more, up to $1,125 for first place. Or even more than that, with weekly bonuses available for the best seven-day performance.


For the second week in a row, Team of the Week honors go to Just Weight. After sweating away 2.1 percent of its starting weight over seven days two weeks ago, Just Weight dropped another 1.52 percent this past week.

The second-best one-week showing was by the Flubber Busters, at 1.26 percent. The Flubber Busters charged up the rankings two weeks ago, from 13th place to eighth. They remain in eighth this week, but at this pace, they may ready to charge.


The 100-pound club added a new member, but just barely. Four and a Half Full-Grown Men now is down 100.25 pounds to become the fifth team to pass the century mark on the scales.

The other four teams are Do It Again, 132.25 pounds; Just Weight, 123.5 pounds; Believers Disappearing Act, 112.25 pounds; and Low Ton, 106 pounds.

Since the Fitness Challenge is based on percentage of starting weight lost, not total pounds, that’s not the order those five teams appear in the standings. Four and a Half Full-Grown Men are in seventh place, behind the lightweight Heavy Decisions, which has lost a team total 74 pounds.


For two weeks in a row, one team — Farmers Bank Fit Five — managed to gain weight in the weight-loss competition. That was soundly turned around this past week. The Fit Five combined for a loss of 11.75 pounds, the sixth-highest total of any team this past week. They outplayed the other 10 teams on total pounds.

The word at the scales is the team is motivated to climb the standings in the final two weeks of the competition.


This week, the service organizations spotlight falls on Cornerstone of Hope, the organization for which U C Us Again is playing.

Last year, the team was known as Now U C Us and won the Fitness Challenge, sending $1,155 in prize money to organization. This year, the team hopes for a repeat.

“My good friend from college, Mark Tripodi, founded the Cornerstone of Hope out of his own personal tragedy of losing his son, Bobby, at the age of 3 to meningitis,” team captain Jim Parry of Niles has said.

As the Tripodis went through the grieving process, they learned there was no support system in place for people in their situation. Mark quit his job to run Cornerstone to make sure others would have help that they were unable to find in such a difficult situation.”

Bobby Tripodi died in May 2000. Mark and Christi Tripodi said that as part of their healing, they made it their mission to make sure grief support was available for others more than at once-a-month meetings.

In 2003, they founded Cornerstone of Hope, based on bereavement care centers they researched from around the country. Based in Independence, it is open six days a week and offers professional counseling for individuals and families, as well as offering help to other support groups.