And the winners are … yet to be determined

2019 Fitness Challenge was a ton of fun

Leah Gilger of Cortland, right, looks at the scale as her husband, Noah Gilger, gets his reading during the final weigh-in of 2019 Fitness Challenge. Both are members of the Mission Slimpossible team. (Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple)

And the winners are… to be announced Sunday.

In the meantime, we will verify the final figures for the 18th annual Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge community weight loss competition to benefit nonprofit service organizations. The teams that lost the greatest shares of their starting weights over the last eight weeks will gain the largest helpings of prize money for the designated do-gooder groups.

Until then, perhaps you can find clues in this sampling from the unofficial final tallies (numbers subject to change as they are verified):

* The 120 players on the 24 five-member teams lost a total 2,010.75 pounds. The Mahoning Valley is a full ton lighter today.

* That works out to an average 16.75 pounds per person weight loss over eight weeks.

* The seven teams in the Dynamos division for Fitness Challenge veterans lost a total 794 pounds.

* The 17 teams in the Go-Getters division for newbies and gentler players dropped a total 1,216.75 pounds.

* Twenty-five people — more than 20 percent of the entire field — skipped the final weigh-in.

* It appears that the Go-Getters championship remained a two-team race between the Big Dogs, who were leading, and Mission Slimpossible, who also held the lead multiple weeks. But which one won it all? And preliminary numbers show that a new team rocketed into third place.

* For the Dynamos, the race to the top seems to have remained between Just Weight, the defending champions, The Slimsons, who turned in three Team of the Week performances, and Thinning the Herd, a team comprised of former Fitness Challenge champions.


For their $250 entry fee, each of the 24 five-member teams will send at least $225 to the nonprofit service organization of its choice. The top five teams in each of the two divisions earn more: first place, $775; second, $575; third, $400; fourth, $325; fifth, $300; sixth and lower, $225.


“We didn’t realize how much fun it was going to be,” Fitness Challenge first-timer Robin Liddle of LOSTinspanx said at the final weigh-in Thursday at St. Joe’s at the Mall in Niles.

She and her teammate and husband, Richard, combined to lose just shy of 40 pounds.

The camaraderie and competition between teams combined to make a normally tough task enjoyable, she said. “This challenge helped motivate my husband and I to lose more than we would have if we were not in the Challenge.”

“My husband didn’t even know he had a calculator on his phone. Now he’s working out the percentages,” Liddle said. “He was hilarious. Twenty minutes of his day were looking at the phone calculating.”

Richard Liddle lost 10.77 percent of his starting weight over the course of the contest. “He already figured it out,” she said.

“He did fabulous. He is a competitor. The man did everything to win. That’s his nature. First of all, he’s a food police. When there’s both of us in the house, he’s going, ‘What’ve you eaten?’ But in a fun way.”

She shed 11.25 pounds. Liddle said her strategy was to eliminate processed and chemically enhanced foods. She went organic. “We have our own chickens,” she said.


At the first weigh-in, Steve Simunich of Because We Can 2 announced his intention to give up wine and cheese during Sunday night card games.

“I did it,” he said Thursday. “I stopped eating cheese and crackers and drinking beer and wine on Sunday nights.”

He dropped a dozen pounds.

“My ultimate goal was to get down to 180 pounds. I’m 2 1/2 pounds away. I’ll keep going, but I’ll splurge once in a while.” He grinned. “Tonight, I’m going to Sunrise (Inn of Warren).”

His game plan included workouts six nights per week, oatmeal for breakfast, fruits and vegetables during the day, and one full meal in the evening. He intends to hit his goal even though the Challenge is done.

“I changed some habits,” Simunich said. “I changed the diet.”


Dena Stemple of Because We Can 2 dropped 11 1/2 pounds during the Fitness Challenge. “I was hoping for more but, I gotta take what I can get,” she said at the final weigh-in Thursday

The Fitness Challenge was the kick-start to a greater goal: “I gotta keep going because my daughter is getting married in November. I have to lose weight for that.”

“It was a good beginning,” Barb Ozimek of the Flash Mob said. She lost 9.5 pounds. “I’m happy with the Challenge. We (she and her teammates) were saying on the way over here we’re going to keep doing the things we did.”

Flash Mob teammate and co-worker Chris Cooney, who lost 9.25 pounds, said, “Accountability makes a difference. Knowing all of my team were counting on me, it made a difference.”

“I worked my butt off,” Glenn “Big Dog” McClelland, captain of the Big Dogs, said. He got rid of 56.5 pounds over the last eight weeks to tip the scales at a tad more than 200 pounds.

For McClelland, it’s been a long-term project. He’s now lost nearly 200 pounds over the last two years.

McClelland said had been stuck in the 250-to-260-pound range and wasn’t going to join the Fitness Challenge. Instead, the competition helped him break through the wall.

“We’ve all been pushing each other,” he said. “I live at the gym. My wife hasn’t seen me.”



Several Fitness Challenge teams are playing for food — just not for themselves.

The Faithful Five, a group of men from First United Methodist Church, are playing for the church’s community breakfast and its food pantry.

“We are shunning calories so that others can eat,” team captain Larry Turner said.

Sunday services at First United Methodist, 309 N. Park Ave., Warren, begin at 11 a.m. The church hosts free community breakfasts at 10 a.m. every Sunday.

According to the church website, the First Church food pantry is open the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month and serves about 60 families a month.

“We have a community rooting for us,” Turner said. “We are asking our congregation to pledge 25 cents to the food pantry for each pound the team loses during the eight-week challenge. These are our ‘quarter-pounders’ (apologies to McDonald’s) cheering us on.”

Through the first seven weeks, the Faithful Five shed 75.25 pounds. For you quarter-pounders, that’s $18.75 so far, plus whatever the team lost in the final week. Check back on Sunday for your final tally.

The Five also have a side bet with their sister congregation, Howland United Methodist Church, home of the HUM Heavenly Losers team. Whichever team places lower in the Fitness Challenge will contribute $100 to the other team’s cause. Through seven weeks, the Faithful Five look to be in good shape to add the Benjamin to their food pantry and community breakfasts.

HUM, by the way, is playing for its Appalachian Service Project. For more than 25 years, work teams from HUM have volunteered time each summer to repair homes in central Appalachia. So far, they’ve repaired more than 90 homes, according to the church website.

In another food swap, both Mission Slimpossible and the PsyCare Hungry Gamers are playing for the Warren Family Mission, 155 Tod Ave. NW, Warren.

Warren Family Mission is a faith-based family resource center that provides free food, shelter, clothing, and spiritual and drug and alcohol rehabilitation help to participants from Trumbull County and its surrounding area. The mission operates solely on donations from individuals and local businesses.

The mission serves about 11,000 meals a month and gives out more than 1,200 bags of food monthly, according to its website.

The monthly totals also show more than 2,000 people receive clothing; 1,190 nights of shelter are provided; 3,000 hours of rehab / recovery, education and work training are logged; and 1,500 hours of prayer and counseling are provided.

“We have a vision to be able to serve our community in a way that helps people recover from addictions, get back on their feet, rebuild broken relationships, restore families and become a vital part of a growing community with a positive influence,” the mission’s website states.

And as reported in a previous story, the Flash Mob, made up of Kent State University at Trumbull employees, is playing to help finance the campus food pantry that it plans to open as soon as this fall.

“This will be seed money,” team captain and campus marketing coordinator Bill Burgess said.

The institution is working through Second Harvest Food Bank to establish the pantry at the regional campus in Champion.


Fitness Challengers didn’t forget the animals.

The Big Dogs played for Voices of the Trumbull Pound Dogs, a nonprofit group of volunteers at the Trumbull County Dog Pound. The group works with animals at the Trumbull County Dog Pound and raises money to help with “spay / neuter, training, temporary boarding if needed, medical care, improved socialization, rescue and whatever is needed to help them get the best of care, find good homes and stay in good homes.”

Lowry Family Dental played for the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County. The Vienna shelter states that it is “committed to promoting the welfare and humane treatment of all animals; to enrich the lives of people and families through the adoption of our homeless pets; and to educate students and adults about the importance of kindness and respect for all living creatures.

“It is our policy to provide and promote humane care and treatment of all animals that need protection, to investigate cruelty and neglect, to prevent the birth of unwanted litters through ‘neutering’ and education and to provide rescue services for animals that are hit-by-car, sick or injured,” the group’s website states.