The harder the mountain is to climb, the more glorious the summit.
The fivesome known as the Kingz of Carz never stopped to admire the view at the top, as team captain Tino Merlo's crew blew away the field to become champions of the 2014 Tribune Chronicle / St. Elizabeth-St. Joseph Health Center Fitness Challenge weight loss competition for charity.
Not only did the Kingz hold onto the top spot after the final week's weigh-ins, they extended their lead exponentially by losing 3.36 percent of their overall weight in week 10.
The 2014 Tribune Chronicle / St. Elizabeth-St. Joseph Health Center Fitness Challenge winners were Kingz of Carz. The team presented a $1,440 check to Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Howland. From left are team members Brandon Farr and Tino Merlo; Dominic Mancino, business manager at rehab center; and team members Sam Shepherd, Joe Shesko and Bob Marzullo.
That final push put the Kingz in rarefied air as the only Fitness Challenge team in the competition's 13-year history to exceed the 20 percent lost mark. They finished with a weight decrease of 20.46 percent.
"It feels great," Merlo said. "If anything, I feel really relieved."
In second place, Just Weight finished the competition on a high note, losing 2.21 percent in week 10. Team captain Stephanie Iacozili and her troops ended the challenge having lost 17.30 percent overall.
"Of course we would have liked to have won it, but we'll take second," Iacozili said. "We all worked really hard on our journey over the last 10 weeks."
The biggest final week change in the standings came with the Fatagins, on the strength of a 2.70 percent decrease in the final week, leaping the Wellness Warriors to snare third position.
Fatagins finished the competition with a decrease of 15.59 percent.
The aforementioned Wellness Warriors took fourth place with 14.91 percent lost, while Weight No More rounds out the top five at 13.38 percent.
Longtime rivals Mocha House / Warren Strong (12.32 percent) and 4.5 Full Grown Men (11.06 percent) took sixth and seventh place, respectively.
Essentially, the 2014 Fitness Challenge was in the bag the moment the Kingz of Carz took over the top spot in week five.
Their lead only seemed to increase from week to week, as the quintet hailing from Toyota of Warren cut pounds at a staggering rate.
Usually, the further along a weight-loss competition gets, the less pounds are lost weekly.
For the Kingz, it was the opposite.
Through the first four weeks, they sat at 8.94 percent lost, an average of 2.3 percent a week. In the final six weeks, the Kingz lowered that score by another 11.52 percent or an average of just less than 2 percent per week.
That consistency was unmatched in this year's challenge.
According to team member Sam Shepard, the chance to set a new Fitness Challenge record gave the guys an extra push in the last couple weeks.
"When we heard about that, setting the record was definitely on our minds," Shepard said. "Tino told us at the beginning that we should all be aiming to lose about 20 percent each, so that's right about where we finished."
For Merlo, the hope is to now keep the weight off.
"Some of us still have a personal goal to meet," Merlo said. "So, we want to keep it going."
According to Merlo, this year's standout competitor - Bob Marzullo - is the only one in the group who has probably exceeded his original goal.
Marzullo's amazing run saw him shed more than 78 pounds over the course of the 10 weeks.
That, my friends, deserves three cheers.
Additional outstanding performances for the Kingz were given by Shepard, Brandon Farr and Joe Shesko.
Now, Merlo is hoping the team's newfound fitness means making their incredible 2014 run in the Fitness Challenge their last one.
"We've gone after (first place) for a few years," Merlo said. "We've been close and we decided this year was going to be our last time.
"Great to go out with a bang."
For their efforts, Children's Rehabilitation Center in Howland is now $1,440 richer.
"For five years in this competition, that has been our charity," Merlo said. "We've always been able to give them something, but never the big prize. Great to be able to finally do it.
"Those kids are well worth it."
An email received by the Tribune Chronicle this past week stirred a controversy.
Tony Cella, member of 2013 championship team In It To Win It, brought forth a compelling statistical anomaly that called into question whether the Kingz of Carz had actually set a true Fitness Challenge record.
Here's the discrepancy:
While the Kingz did finish with the highest percentage of weight ever lost in the competition's history (20.46 percent), the 2013 competition was only eight weeks long.
That means In It To Win It's mark of 18.4 percent lost constitutes the most amount of weight lost per week over the course of the Fitness Challenge (2.3 percent lost per week). The Kingz lost 15.15 percent through eight weeks, and finished with an average of 2.1 percent lost per week over the 10-week competition.
Both marks obviously fall short of In It To Win It's record, making Cella's objection a valid one.
After being thoroughly debriefed, the Fitness Challenge Rules Committee (FCRC) has reached a verdict on the matter.
The FCRC has determined two records shall be recognized henceforth - the eight-week record of 18.4 percent lost, and the Kingz of Carz new mark of 20.46 through 10 weeks.
But will either record stand the test of time?
Working out of the YMCA of Trumbull County, Just Weight stayed within striking distance of the Kingz of Carz right up until the final bell.
While they failed to overtake the Kingz, Iacozili's powerhouse quintet managed to finish with one of the highest marks in the competition's history - 17.3 percent.
"There was a lot of pressure every week to keep losing weight," Iacozili said. "We were very dedicated and it was a lot of fun."
Iacozili was quick to thank the YMCA for supporting their efforts.
"They were all great over there, cheering us on and encouraging us when we needed it," Iacozili said. "Obviously, I also want to thank our friends and family for their love and support, too."
Along with Iacozili, Just Weight consisted of Jim Miller, Miguel Medina, Patty Cleary and John Talstein.
Just Weight will be giving back to the YMCA in the form of a $910 check. Those winnings include both their runner-up finish and the one week Just Weight lost the most poundage.
"It's great to be able to give back to the YMCA and we're going to donate it to their spinning program," Iacozili said. "Some of their bikes get a ton of use and they need repairs. We're happy to help with that."
Long, strange trip
10 weeks. 3,783 pounds lost. The numbers don't lie.
The 2014 Fitness Challenge was a roaring success. Of the 48 teams, 28 lost more than 6 percent of their initial weight.
Meanwhile, the entire top 10 lost greater than 10 percent of their initial weight.
The Fitness Challenge was such a success, a shopping boom in area would not be surprising, given so many people wearing increasingly smaller sized clothing.
It's a win-win.
Thanks for taking part and / or reading. See ya next year.