GIRARD - Brandon Hunkus won't say no to desert. Especially not a treat made by his younger sister, Brooke.
"She made a plate of chocolate chip cookies the other day," Hunkus said. "If it's there I won't say no. And they were pretty good."
Hunkus is a 2011 Girard High School grad where he was a receiver and defensive back in the fall and a centerfielder in the spring. Now, he's a die-hard, full-time CrossFit trainer, who still enjoys the sweets.
"I'll eat chicken and brown rice for carbs," he said. "But you can cheat once in a while to keep you sane. That's what's good about CrossFit."
That alone should get people excited about the fairly new workout program.
CrossFit was founded by Greg Glassmen in 2000. Its exercise routine consists of a combination of aerobic work, body weight resistance, gymnastics and Olympic weight lifting.
"The whole purpose is to prepare you to do everything," said Hunkus, 20, who just started the program seven months ago. "I just thought it was a lifting-type program. Obviously, there's more and more to it and not trying to be perfect at every one thing. The concept is to be as good as possible at all things."
On top of gaining 15 pounds (from 180 to 195, while still maintaining 7-percent body fat), Hunkus says, he can walk on his hands and do a backflip, "skills I never thought I'd learn."
His biggest accomplishment, though, is on a national stage. In February, the rising junior at Youngstown State took part in the CrossFit Open, a worldwide, five-week competition. Participants film themselves doing a series of different movements and lifts with a cap of 10 minutes. Each week presented a different set, which included push-up style moves called burpees, box jumps, deadlifts, snatch lifts, medicine ball throws, squats and gymnastics-style ring exercises - all on an extremely quick, intense and difficult level. Over 100,000 people participated, worldwide, and out of the 7,000 in the Central-East United States region, Hunkus placed 410th overall.
Among 20-year olds, he was 75th nationally and sixth regionally. Next year, he hopes to go out for the CrossFit Games, an on-site competition held each June in California.
"My only regret is that I didn't start this earlier," he said.
Brandon's father, Dr. Bob Hunkus, is a chiropractor and introduced the program to him a few years ago. Brandon earned a 3.9 GPA and a 26 on the ACT in high school, earning him a full-ride to YSU where he studies exercise science. He trains at a gym owned by Jason Janetti at the corner of Commerce and East Federal St. in downtown Youngstown.
"Brandon is an awesome kid," Janetti said. "He's a pretty self-aware, coachable kid who always lends a hand to somebody in need."
Janetti, 32, has owned the gym for more than three years after stints as an electrician, landscaper and mechanic. Currently, he has 130 members and a solid staff of volunteer coaches.
"We work better with the average Joes and soccer moms," Janetti said. "I started with defense classes called kraz-maga and cardio work with heavy bags. Just within the year, we were CrossFit-affiliated because it is fairly new to this area. Everything is getting coached and you're getting personal attention. It's very positive and someone will always give you a boost
"Brandon does that. He walks up and helps someone calmly on a movement."
In a few weeks, Hunkus is doing a six-person team CrossFit tournament in Columbus. In May, he participated in a three-team competition with fellow YSU students Sam Faykus and Brandon Lehnert where they placed first out of seven teams from Northeast Ohio.
"I'm passionate about it," Hunkus said. "CrossFit will help build you up quickly. It doesn't matter how fit you are, because it's actually more mental than physical. In the end, it's so rewarding."
Like a chocolate chip cookie.