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Buckeyes fight to be fittest in 2nd ‘Most Fit Buckeye’

Andrew Williams / Lantern reporter

Ohio State students raced against the clock, pulling sleds, flipping tires and sprinting toward the finish so they could be named the fittest of them all in the 2012 Most Fit Buckeye Competition.

The Exercise Science Club began the competition last year to emphasize the importance of overall fitness by incorporating different fitness tests into one “crazy obstacle course,” said Gina Verhoff, president of the Exercise Science Club and a third-year in health science education.

“We have a lot of people who are really good at running, and then we have the opposite end of the spectrum where people want to lift, but there was no competition that incorporated it all,” she said.

The obstacle course, set up in Coffey Road Park, included fitness tests such as mid-distance running, sprinting, weighted sled pulling, tractor tire flipping, going under limbo poles, vertical hurdle jumping, a mental ability test and lifting, among other challenges.

“Basically, it’s the most intense 15 minutes of your life,” Verhoff said.

Justin Agler, a first-year in civil engineering, said he hoped his experience in distance running would prepare him for the physical demand of the obstacle course Saturday.

“I thought I was doing alright,” he said. “It gets harder and harder as you go along because you’re getting more fatigued.”

Emily Baas, a first-year in microbiology, had confidence in her fitness level as well. She was on the OSU rowing team for the past two quarters and is a marathon-runner. As a freshman, though, she said she was just hoping to do her best.

“As long as I don’t stop, I’ll be happy,” Baas said before her heat went through the course. “I figure I’ll have won it at least once by the time I graduate.”

Although she, like Agler, did not finish in the top four of the men and women’s divisions, Baas said she had fun and would do the competition again next year.

Out of the almost 70 competitors, the title of Most Fit Buckeyes went to Nina Passen and Tony Ward, a fifth-year in human development and family science, with times of 15:17 and 12:59, respectively.

“I just love working out. Five or six days a week, at least,” said Passen, a second-year in pharmaceutical sciences. “This accomplishment feels great after retiring from Ohio State field hockey. … I’ll be back (to compete) next year.”

Ward is the repeat champion of the competition, and Ben Van Treese, a fourth-year in human nutrition, is the repeat runner-up. This year, he completed the course with a time of 13:02.

“For the second year (of training for the competition), I did a bunch of 800-meter runs, then 50 squats, lunges, pushups, for three miles,” Van Treese said. “I tried to simulate (the course) the best I could.”

The obstacle course also required a mental toughness to complement the physical difficulty. Van Treese said he mentally prepared by trying to beat his time in previous workouts.

“If you can beat yourself after a full effort, then you know you are mentally prepared,” he said.

Last year’s competition proceeds benefited Pelotonia, a grassroots bicycle ride that benefits the James Cancer Hospital. But this year, the Exercise Science Club wanted to help students within the exercise sciences major by establishing a scholarship fund. This fund will help undergraduates have more opportunities to do research within their field.

“It is tough as an undergraduate to begin your own research, so we want to be able to give back to our own department … and help fellow club members,” Verhoff said.

Last year, the competition cost about $2,000 to put on, most expenses going toward purchasing the equipment, Verhoff said. This year, the competition had numerous sponsors, including FrontRunner and the Ohio Fit Club, lowering the overall cost of the event to about $600.

“It’s only in its second year, but we can already tell there’s a big difference between last year and this year,” Verhoff said. “Just the simple fact we have our website for people to sign up on, that’s a big difference for this year that we didn’t have last year.”

Verhoff said the biggest goal the club had for the competition this year was to emphasize physical fitness overall, rather than the competition aspect of the event.

“Just do it to do it, not to necessarily win,” she said. “You don’t have to exercise to lose weight. You can just do it because you enjoy doing it, and all the other health benefits that you gain for it.”

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