Elite Athletes Challenge Themselves, Others in SEAL Fitness Challenge

PHOENIX (NNS) — More than 330 athletes took the opportunity to see how they stacked against America’s elite, special operations warriors at the first SEAL Fitness Challenge of 2009, held at Arizona State University in Phoenix, March 14.

Men and women ages 13 and up tested themselves against the tough, physical fitness standards of Naval Special Warfare operators, including Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC), explosive ordnance disposal technicians and Navy divers. The focus of the free event, hosted by Naval Special Warfare Recruiting Directorate (NSWRD) in association with I-High Marketing, was to challenge athletes to maximize their performance in individual tests of strength and endurance.

Participants competed in five events starting with a 500-yard swim, immediately followed by push ups, sit ups, pull ups and a 1.5 mile run. All competitors were scored and ranked against each other. Participants received a free white commemorative T-shirt, while athletes who met the minimum SEAL standards received a tan T-shirt for their efforts. To be competitive, athletes worked toward a goal of under 10 minutes for the swim, 80 push ups, 80 sit ups, six pull ups and a swim time of under 11 minutes – and some competitors did just that – earning a highly-coveted blue T-shirt.

“It’s all about pushing yourself,” said Capt. Adam Curtis, commander, NSWRD. “As SEALs, we’re all about pushing ourselves every day. This event gives us the chance to give people a taste of what the SEALs are all about – that’s what makes it a fun and challenging event.”

In addition to testing their physical fitness, participants were able to speak to SEALs and SWCC to find out what life is really like as an operator.

“I got to learn more about how hard the Navy SEALs work and what they do for our country,” said Rebecca Cady, a student of Central Arizona College. Cady is in the delayed entry program and is scheduled to enlist in the Navy in March. “The guys helped motivate me a lot.”

SEAL and SWCC Scouts gave athletes a sample of military training with some loud, verbal encouragement throughout the day.

“Phoenix is a very fit city,” said Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Darek Laviolette, a SEAL Scout, nicknamed “Chief Pain.” Laviolette said he was impressed with everyone’s enthusiasm and never-quit attitude.

“They’re really stepping up to the plate. They are pushing themselves – which is all you can ask,” Laviolette said.

Members of the Olympic swim and water polo teams came out to support the event, including Lacey Nymeyer, who won silver in the 400-meter relay in Bejing and three-time medalist, swimmer, Matt Grevers.

“This humanizes the SEALs for me,” said Grevers. “It’s less intimidating knowing that they’re just cool, normal guys – even though they’re still serious warriors.”

The SEAL Fitness Challenge has inspired many participants to improve their fitness, including 14-year-old Manhattan Beach resident, Laura Hagedorn who competed in last year’s Los Angeles event. Pull ups was the hardest event for her, so she asked for a pull-up bar for her birthday. Less than a year later, Hogedorn came back for more fun and to show off the fruits of her labor.

“Last year I had to have assistance,” said Hagedorn. “Now I can do nine pull ups!”

The oldest competitor was 74-year-old Dominick Aiello. Aiello lost a leg to cancer, but still found the strength to compete. Aiello has been competing in the Senior Olympics for the past 11 years and loves the positive atmosphere of the SEAL Fitness Challenge, he said.

“It was plenty of fun,” said Aiello. “Everyone was so accommodating.”

Swimming using the side stroke was the hardest part for Aiello, who is a former life guard.

“Once I did a couple of laps it came back,” he said. “I finished!”

As a special treat for athletes, the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, gave a freefall-parachuting demonstration that got the crowd cheering. The team also attended the event to share their Navy experiences with athletes and spectators.

Three more SEAL Fitness Challenges are scheduled across the U.S. this year. The next event is slated May 9 in Dallas. For more information, visit:

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