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True Believers

Twelve ounces determines Fitness Challenge champion

April 8, 2012
By BURTON COLE ( , Tribune Chronicle |

Twelve ounces. After dominating the Fitness Challenge for nine weeks, the Believers' Bulge Busters clung to their championship by less than a single pound.

Had the hard-charging Just Weight team lost three-quarters a pound more - about the weight of a running shoe - they would have lost 18.14 percent of their starting weight and beaten the Believers' 18.13 percent in the community weight-loss competition to benefit charity.

Or had the Bulge Busters slacked off by just the weight of a can of Coke... Well, you get the picture.

Article Photos

Two-time Fitness Challenge champions The Believers’ Bulge Busters reach for celebratory snacks at the end of the 10-week contest. In front, ‘‘team mascot’’ Christian Buckler, 8, holds a tray of treats while team members, back row from left, Brent Whetstone, Tamra Courey, Janelle Buckler, Janice Buckler and Bruce Buckler prepare to dig in.

In the closest finish in the 11 years of the Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Health Centers Fitness Challenge, the Believers' Bulge Busters held off Just Weight 18.13 to 18.07 percent.

The Wellness Warriors held onto third place at 15.9 percent, the Mocha House Health Solutions remained in fourth at 13.7 percent and the YMCA Game Changers jumped from 11th place into fifth at 13.2 percent.

The Bulge Busters became the first team to lead all 10 weeks of the Challenge, and the first team to win back-to-back championships. Previously, 2007 champions Inlaws / Outlaws returned in 2010 as Never Say Never and won a second title.

Fact Box

Final stats

CHAMPION: Believers' Bulge Busters, 18.1 percent starting weight lost

NUMBER OF TEAMS: 66 for 330 players (last year, 61 for 305 players)

COMBINED STARTING WEIGHT: 68,801.25 pounds (64,126.75 pounds)

COMBINED ENDING WEIGHT: 64,242.25 pounds (60,012.5 pounds)

TOTAL POUNDS LOST: 4,559 pounds (4,114.25 pounds)

AVERAGE LOSS: 13.8 pounds per player, 6.6 percent of starting weight lost (13.5 pounds per player, 6.4 percent of starting weight lost)


PLAYERS WHO GAINED WEIGHT: 11 - seven women and four men


Fitness Challenge prizes are:

  • First place, $1,350 for the team's charity;
  • Second, $900;
  • Third, $540;
  • Fourth, $360;
  • Fifth to seventh, $315 each;
  • Eighth to 10th, $270 each;
  • All others, $225.

Also, the team with the best single-week showing each week earns a bonus $10.

Champions through the years

2012 - Believers' Bulge Busters, 18.1 percent of starting weight lost;

2011 - Believers' Bulge Busters, 17.2 percent;

2010 - Never Say Never, 18.9 percent;

2009 - The Y-Guys, 15.3 percent;

2008 - Cortland PsyCare Shrinks, 13.4 percent;

2007 - Inlaws / Outlaws, 14.2 percent;

2006 - 4 Men and a Lady, 13.81 percent;

2005 - Fab Five of PsyCare, 11.31 percent;

2004 - Hillside Hotties and Master K Dog, 7.78 percent;

2003 - Hospice Hunnies, 7.87 percent;

2002 - Ladies of Justice, 8.4 percent

Fifty-Pound Club?

Men who lost 50 or more pounds were:

Jim Miller, Just Weight, 66 pounds lost

Aaron Shaw, Hot Cross Buns, 56.75

Bruce Buckler, Believers' Bulge Busters, 56.5

Miguel Medina, Just Weight, 54

Ron Darlington, Save the Tatas, 51

Pat Ryan, Wellness Warriors, 50.5

Bill Axiotis, Mocha House Health Solutions, 50

Forty-Pound Club

Woman who lost 40 or more pounds were:

Michelle Rasey, Weigh Out of Control, 44.75 pounds lost

Natalie Markusic, Farm Team, 42

Teams that lost the most pounds

  • Just Weight, finished in second place, 199 pounds lost
  • Wellness Warriors, third place, 181.75
  • Believers' Bulge Busters, first place, 174.5
  • Mocha House Health Solutions, fourth place, 165.5
  • YMCA Game Changers, fifth place, 150 pounds

(Note: Winners determined by percent of starting weight lost, not total pounds)

''They took quite a run on it,'' Bulge Buster Bruce Buckler said of Just Weight. ''Their team kept it up all through the whole contest. I'm glad it's over.''

Even with what seemed like an insurmountable lead, the Bulge Busters knew it could get dicey, his wife and team captain Janice Buckler said.

''We tried to play like it was,'' she said. ''We tried to keep it in mind that they are wanting our spot.''

Stephanie Iacozili, captain of Just Weight, made sure the final numbers were double-checked, triple-checked, quadruple-checked - and then checked again.

So, so close.

''We worked out twice a day. Some of these guys, like Miguel (Medina, 54 pounds) and Jim (Miller, 66 pounds), were just phenomenal. They're all competitive. They all wanted to win,'' Iacozili said.

Just Weight ranked 19th in Week 1; eighth in Weeks 2 and 3; seventh in Week 4; sixth in Week 5; fourth in Weeks 6 and 7; and second from there on out, nearly writing a Cinderella fairy tale win.

Their second-place finish, plus three $10 bonuses for Team of the Week performances, netted $930 for their service organization, the YMCA of Warren.

Just Weight and the other two teams based out of the YMCA - the fifth-place Game Changers and 10th place 4.5 Grown Men - worked with a trainer, who set up strict diet and exercise plans.

''It was a great Challenge for myself and everyone,'' Iacozili said. ''We will continue our friendship to push each other. We're discussing how to keep each other accountable. This is the beginning to a better, healthier lifestyle.

''We're going to challenge ourselves every day, in the gym and outside the gym,'' Iacozili said. ''We hope not to do this Challenge again.''

Janice Buckler said, ''They did a good job. But so did the Wellness Center. The thing I noticed about the Wellness Center was how consistent they were. They stuck right up there.''

The Warriors were in ninth place after the first week, and then either in second or third place the rest of the way. Scott MacMillan, captain of the Wellness Warriors, said his team was all about consistency.

''We didn't try anything much different from week one to 10. We spun, ran and watched our calorie intake mostly.

''We do it for the charity and wanted second place pretty bad,'' he said. ''The top two groups were absolute amazing, losing over 18 percent like that.''

Their third place finish plus one Team of the Week bonus earned $550 for their designated service organization, the Niles leg of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

The team is based out of the Mayor Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center in Niles, where MacMillan is director of operations.

''We are proud of our effort,'' he said. ''The Wellness center had a lot of teams that work out there involved in the event. It was fun and hopefully some of them continue to live healthy and help others also.''

As for Believers' Bulge Busters, their win plus two Team of the Week bonuses earns $1,370 for the Bella Women's Center in Warren, a nonprofit medical office that serves women facing unplanned pregnancies.

''It's a happy feeling to be able to do something for Bella,'' Janice Buckler said. ''For ladies who have unplanned pregnancies, it's a good thing they have resources that are up to date.''

The team pulled it off with dedication, diet and hard work, she said.

''We ate a lot of fruits and vegetables. Some meat, but we tried to watch what we ate. Mostly, we did the old Weight Watchers program, but ate about half the points allowed, and drank a lot of water.''

Exercise include a lot of walking, some jogging, a bit of spinning and, for her and daughter Janelle, Zumba classes.

Bruce Buckler noted that his team worked out and weighed in at The Wellness Center in Niles. ''Scott (MacMillan) didn't help any when he bought us all Blue Iris cupcakes. He had them waiting for us when we weighed in.''

The big question: Will the Bulge Busters be back to try for a trio of titles.

''I don't really believe at this point you'll see me again except jogging by the windows of the Tribune, trying to keep it off,'' Bruce Buckler said.



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