Survival Of The Fittest - Web Extra

July 17, 2002

Four Baylor students spent a weekend in Orlando, Fla., last spring, and they did a lot more than visit Mickey Mouse.
Competing at the Campus Concepts National Fitness Challenge, the Baylor men's team of Brandon Lester and Joe Bruner and women's team of Tara Thompson and Alex Wink finished first and fourth in the nation, respectively.
Held at the world-class facilities of Disney's Wide World of Sports, the Baylor representatives tackled four events testing overall fitness: a biathlon in running and cycling, a tug-of-war, a weighted sled-pulling shuttle relay and an obstacle course.
Baylor's squads advanced to the nationals after winning the regionals held at Baylor's McLane Student Life Center. In Florida, they faced teams from 11 colleges.
"It was a fun atmosphere," says Thompson, now a sophomore from Norman, Okla. "We were the only school there with both boys and girls teams, so it was fun to cheer for the boys."
The Baylor teams overcame more than the competition and difficult events to succeed. Wink, a sophomore from Sioux City, Iowa, persevered despite a severely sprained ankle that required a heavy tape job. "It was hard for her to put her weight on it," Thompson says. "I'm very proud of what we did."
Meanwhile, Bruner, a graduate student from Fort Worth, Texas, competed as a last-minute replacement when one team member became ill.
Despite these hurdles, the Baylor men finished in the top three in each event and won the tug-of-war. The women posted the best obstacle course time.
Baylor's athletes and sponsors received all-expense-paid trips to Florida, which included stops at Disney's world-renowned theme parks. 
"Everything at Disney is so beautiful," Thompson says. "We got up at 6 on Saturday, competed at 7 and were through by lunch. We had all Saturday night at MGM Studios, and we spent Sunday at the Magic Kingdom. We played like kids." 
Lester, a senior from Abilene, Texas, credits the McLane Student Life Center and its staff with much of the teams' successes. 
"Baylor has an amazing facility and staff," he says. "They've created an opportunity for students here, and that's what it's all about."

Parrish is a lecturer in journalism.