2017 AFM FITTEST Winners

There were hundreds of competitors vying to be the best, but when the dust settled, only a handful of elite athletes came out on top.




Wardrobe by FITFIT Active, Love Cycling Studio, and Lululemon

Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

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The AFM FITTEST is an annual competition comprised of ten tests measuring strength, agility, power, coordination, and endurance. Every year, there are hundreds of competitors vying to be the best, but when the dust settles, only a handful of elite athletes come out on top. Winners of the AFM FITTEST competed with gusto and determination while also demonstrating humility and good sportsmanship—the true traits of a hero.

Faster than a streak of lightning, more powerful than a locomotive, and an indomitable spirit...

THESE ARE THE FITTEST PEOPLE IN AUSTIN.


Bailey Johnson

Women’s 20s, Overall Individual Winner

 

What is your fitness background?

I ran the 400 meter hurdles for Oklahoma State University. I was originally recruited for the heptathlon, but I had quite a few injuries that didn't allow me to do that.

How did you feel on event day?

Honestly, not that great because I didn't feel as though I had prepared enough. I was joking around with Taylor and my dad saying, “I hope I can just run an eight-minute-mile.” I wasn't super confident but it just seemed like a lot of the chips kind of fell in a good place for me even though I didn't feel that great.

How did you react when you found out you won?

I was excited, but I was even more excited when I found out that Taylor won also. We had always talked about being on the cover together.

How many times have you competed?

I’ve only done it twice—the past two years. 

What inspired you to compete?

I ran track all through college so I already had a competitive mindset, and it was hard doing that your whole life and then no longer competing, so I enjoy the atmosphere of having someone to battle against.

Did you train specifically for the AFM FITTEST?

The most specific I got was the two or three weeks before the competition, when I joined CrossFit Central so I could focus on strength and endurance. I did train specifically for pull-ups. Usually I don't do those but I had a goal I wanted to reach, so I think every time I went in the gym I tried to do as many as I could.

Favorite test?

Interval run.

Least favorite test?

Med-ball toss.

Did you think you were going to win?

No, not at all. How my mindset is naturally, I go in a little bit on the negative side which isn't that great. I was looking forward to competing and as soon as we did the med-ball throw at the first test, I thought, “Well, this is going to be terrible.” But then it started to turn around for me. At the pull-ups, I was surprised that I got 16 and at the interval run I was surprised I got 8. 

What was the best part of the day?

The best part of the day for me was when my brother was doing his mile. Our whole family is incredibly competitive, and I've always been the runner and he's been the strength guy. While he was running, I could tell he was gassed, so I ran alongside of him and I was able to scream at him. Usually it’s the other way around—so that was a good turn of events for me. 

What is your incentive to be fit?

My whole family is pretty athletic. My mom swam in college, my dad and brother played baseball in college, and I ran track. That's just been the environment that we've grown up in—with everything we did there was always a winner and a loser. Even now, my dad texts me almost every day asking, “Did you work out today?” or, “Did you go running today?” It’s just how we grew up. 

Superpower: Being able to get inside people's minds. Thinking what they're thinking.
Weaknesses: Desserts—cookies and scones.
Enemies: Anyone who considers women weak or submissive, misogynists.


 

Taylor Johnson

Men’s 20s, Overall Individual Winner

 

How did you react when you found out you won?

I was excited—I knew it was going to be close. It’s always cool to win again and I was pumped that Bailey won, too. 

Did you train specifically for the AFM FITTEST?

I did a lot more cardio and endurance. I joined the San Antonio Fire Department this year, and all the physical training for that carried over. It really helped out a lot because I really didn't have to run as much as I thought I did for my cardio to improve, so that was a huge plus. I also have two days off in between work days, and when I’m there, I’m able to work out in the station.

Did you have any goals coming into the competition?

The intention was to run under a six-minute-mile, and then obviously try to win it all again. 

Do you have any goals set for next year’s competition?

Try to win again. I haven't really made any individual goals yet for next year, just enjoying the moment right now. We've been kicking around the idea of trying to do it as a family team and competing with our parents, though.

How did this year’s competition compare to the previous years’ events?

I felt a lot better endurance-wise and I wasn't as gassed in between some events. I tried to be smarter and not stand around in the heat watching the other guys. I would go off in the stands or the bleachers and just try to chill. I wanted to get out of the sun and off my feet. I felt a lot more energy at the end of the day going into the mile than years past. 

Favorite test?

The vertical jump.

Least favorite?

The mile—it’s awful.

What was the best part of the day?

Finishing the mile, and then eating a hamburger.

What is your incentive to be fit?

It’s just a lifestyle.

What is your advice to competitors who want to win?

If you want it, you have to get after it. That’s pretty much it—you’ve got to train hard.

Superpower: Being super fast, like The Flash!
Weaknesses: Brunch, especially brunch buffets. Chinese buffets, too.
Enemies: No enemies that I know of; they're plotting though, I'm sure. 


 

Cheetah Bayne

Women’s 30s Winner

 

What is your fitness background?

I run track professionally—100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters.

How did you feel on event day?

I showed up ready to play and have a good time.

How did you react when you found out you won?

Surprised, actually. 

How many times have you competed?

This was my first year.

What inspired you to compete?

I was taking a break from track. I needed something—a competition—that would help me stay consistent with my off-season training.

Did you train specifically for the AFM FITTEST?

I trained for pull-ups. My fiance also helped me run through the agility T-test so I would get it down mentally.

Favorite test?

The vertical.

Least favorite test?

Mystery test No. 2. It’s not a test you train for. I didn’t catch the ball a single time, so I scored zero on that one.

What was the best part of the day?

Hanging out with the ladies in my group. They were fun. Everyone was supporting each other. I really enjoyed the community feel. That’s what true athleticism is and what competition should be—working to beat yourself rather than comparing to others.

What is your incentive to be fit?

It’s a lifestyle. I live my life for the Lord. I was ready to retire from running in January, and He said it wasn’t time yet. My passion is working with kids and younger athletes; helping them train correctly, getting their scholarships, teaching them the difference between true athleticism and fitness. My incentive is to be a role model for them.

Superpower: The Holy Spirit
Weaknesses: Bluebell ice cream
Enemies: Unrighteousness


 

David Braswell

Men’s 30s Winner

 

How did you react when you found out you won?

I was happy with the results. I was fairly surprised. There weren’t as many people, but there was high competition this year.

What inspired you to compete?

It wasn’t to defend the title. It was a matter of why not. I often tell my clients to not worry about winning. When they have injuries I tell them to work around it. I just had to take my own advice.

Did you train specifically for the AFM FITTEST?

I think the way I train year round helps prepare me for the AFM FITTEST. I did practice for the agility test though.

Did you have any goals coming into the competition?

My goal was actually to run a good mile time—somewhere around 5:30. I didn’t do that. I ran a low six. I was disappointed in my mile performance, but next month I’m signing up to do a one-mile race to make myself feel better.

What are the keys to your success?

Staying consistent and being confident in my training. Doing other competitions helped a lot. Sometimes you run out of motivation or excitement, but having a competition to work toward re-energizes you.

How did this year’s competition compare to the previous years’ events?

I feel like they’re consistent. I know what my weaknesses are. I was coming off of an injury this year and I’ve done that in previous years. I didn’t improve more in any one thing.

Favorite test?

It’s always going to be broad jump.

Least favorite?

It’s always going to be a ball throw. I’m always going to suck at throwing a ball to a target.

What was the best part of the day?

My favorite moment was seeing athletes that I had worked with over the past few years improve their weaknesses—by far the best moment.

What is your incentive to be fit?

It has always been one of the things I can control the most in my life. Outside of finances and my relationships, it’s a reliable source of peace and joy. 

Superpower: Quantum manipulation 
Weaknesses: Cilantro!
Enemies: Two Face


 

Alison Gardner

Women’s 40s Winner

 

Did you sign up to defend your title?

No, I came again because it’s a different kind of competition. I usually do CrossFit and this is a twist on that. I also like how they keep most of the tests consistent, so you can gauge how you do over the years. One of the reasons I also like coming back is just talking to the other competitors.

How did you feel on event day?

Really unprepared. I rarely run anymore and so many of the events seem to be run-based. But I felt like I did enough other cross training that I wouldn’t die. 

Favorite test?

Pull-ups. The trick is to go really fast at first and as you start to burn out, go at whatever pace you can.

Least favorite?

The mile. All the running events wear you out.

Did you train specifically for the AFM FITTEST?

No, I just stuck to my regular training routine of going to CrossFit five, sometimes six, days a week.

How did you react when you found out you won?

I felt really good about how I did that day. For me, it’s not about winning, it’s about being able to maintain. I’m sure there will come a day when I don’t see improvement, but I’m still at the point where I’m excited to get stronger each year.

What would you say to convince other women in their 40s to compete in the AFM FITTEST?

Totally come try it! It’s a fun event. You shouldn’t go out there to compete against the person next to you. You should just go to compete against yourself.

Did you have any goals coming into the competition?

One of my goals every year is to increase my pull-ups. But I like to win—that’s a perk.

What was the best part of the day?

Talking to the other competitors. Also, finishing the mile and being done.

What is your incentive to be fit?

It just makes me feel good. My daughters are 7, 10, and 12, and I want to set a good example to live a healthy lifestyle.

Superpower: Ability to clone myself
Weaknesses: Beer and brownies. (Not together)
Enemies: Time


 

Tim Zeddies

Men’s 40s Winner

 

How did you react when you found out you won?

Surprised! Since I’m at the back end of my age group, I had shifted my thinking away from competing to win. Instead, I concentrated on what I could do in order to cope more effectively with my injury while, at the same time, maximizing my effort and focusing on each event as it came.

How did you feel on event day?

Nervous because of a month-long knee injury I had been nursing. (And some catastrophizing I was doing about hurting it more seriously at AFM.)  As it turns out, I actually did sustain a substantial injury and found it hard to walk the week after the FITTEST. On the brighter side, I now have an accurate diagnosis and am well on the road to recovery!

What inspired you to compete?

AFM has a special place in my heart: My participation in the 2012 competition served as an important port of entry for me into the Austin fitness community, which gave me the exceedingly good fortune of meeting and getting close to so many wonderful people. I know that participation in the AFM FITTEST has waned of late, and I really hope the community gets behind this event in future years so that it can continue.

Did you train specifically for the AFM FITTEST?

A little bit. I trained for six months at Of The Lion with trainer extraordinaire David DeLeon. His classes are among the most challenging I have ever experienced and got me in great overall shape. In addition to OTL, I did regular track workouts on Saturday mornings with a great group of guys my age (Anti-Dad-Bod Squad) as well as practicing the mechanics and technical aspects of the med ball toss and the agility test.

Did you have any goals coming into the competition?

I wanted to match or exceed my pull-up max and get at least eight levels on the interval test. My performance on these two tests always have given me a great measure of my fitness.

How did this year’s competition compare to the previous years you've competed?

There were fewer competitors, which meant less rest between events.  

Favorite test?

Interval test, hands down. I hate the interval the most because it sneaks up on you in a vicious and cruel way. However, I find the mental aspect of it fascinating, almost alluring, and use it as an unwelcomed opportunity to fight back against the voices inside my head telling me to slow down or quit.

Least favorite?

The mile. I was completely wiped by the time I got to this, and my knee was barking at me something fierce. But then I saw my wife and youngest daughter Caela, and all was right again.

What was the best part of the day?

Lying low with my family and the long and hot Epsom salt bath I took.

What is your incentive to be fit?

To have a healthy life as long as reasonably possible so I can enjoy my relationship with my daughters to the fullest. Also, intense exercise takes me to a place mentally that is continually challenging and rejuvenating.  

What would you say to convince other men in their 40s to compete in the AFM FITTEST?

Hard to say, to be honest. I have found that people tend to project so much bad stuff onto athletic competitions in a manner that makes competing at least 50 percent mental. In my sports psychology and clinical psychology practice, I find myself working hard to convince men in my age group to start exercising and to keep at it, something I believe works better than any pill out there. 

Superpower: I don’t know that I have one of those, especially at my age! But I consider empathy to be among my greatest strengths.  
Weaknesses: Sometimes taking things too personally
Enemies: Cluelessness and self-righteousness 


 

Kathleen Parker

Women’s 50s Winner

*The only competitor to win every year.

 

How did you feel on event day?

The usual. Crazy nervous, butterflies, excitement. I was a little bit more relaxed, though, just because I had a different attitude coming in.

How did you feel when you found out you won?

This year was really surprising because I didn't train for the events as much as I usually do—and I had good competition. I knew we were all really close. I won seven events but I came in last place in that second mystery test.

You’re the only person who has won their age group every single year. Did you compete to defend your title?

I wasn’t going to do it at all. I actually signed up last minute! My mantra this year is, “Don't miss anything.” If you're invited to go do something, don't miss it. Thirty minutes before registration for the AFM FITTEST closed, I lied in bed and was restless because I was missing it. That was one of the things that got me to sign up, too. I tell all the people I train, “Don't miss anything if you have opportunities,” but then they called me out for being such a chicken. I’m glad I did it.

Did you have any personal goals for the day?

Not this year. Just to do my best and have fun. Usually I come with the intention compete and win, but this year was different.

Favorite test?

Pull-ups. I know, that’s weird.

Least favorite?

Mystery test No. 2. When I saw the bucket of balls, I was like, “Here we go. My downfall is coming.”

What was the best part of the day?

Running across the finish line at the mile. The best part was just being there with my support group—I had like 25 people there. 

What would you say to convince other women in their 50s to compete in the AFM FITTEST?

Don't miss anything. They think they can’t do it because they're 50 or 60 but I'm stronger now than I was in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. If you're just consistent and stay strong you can keep doing it for 20, 30, 50 more years. I plan on living to 100! They just are fearful but it just takes trying. 

What is your incentive to be fit?

To participate in life. I feel like I can do anything. When you stay strong you can do anything, and you don't have to say no. You don't have to say, “I'm not strong enough to do that.” In the fall, I want to start a women's adventure series. Once a month, we’ll do something scary and challenging.

Do you plan to compete next year?

Gosh, I might have to. 

Superpower: Enthusiasm and encouragement
Weaknesses: Queso! 
Enemies: Self-doubt and fear that keeps people from trying something new


 

Todd Stewart

Men’s 50s Winner

 

How did you react when you found out you won?

I was ecstatic and surprised because there was some stiff competition out there. I was extremely impressed. There were some world class type athletes out there, so to be able to compete with them and come out on top was an honor.

Did you train specifically for the AFM FITTEST?

A couple months beforehand I was running about 20 miles a week, I was working with a sprint trainer named Judd Leinhard at Xceleration out in Spicewood. I worked with him two to three times a week just on sprints and explosive training. I also worked out at Atlas Fit in Lakeway, doing weight training, hundreds of pull-ups, hundreds of burpees, and a lot of functional training, 

Did you have any goals coming into the competition?

I wanted to win it. I definitely wanted it. I wanted to finish in the top 15 overall.

Favorite test?

Pull-ups, just because I think I was very much prepared and I did better than I did four years prior. I also liked the mile run—after everything I was pleased to run a low six minute mile.

Least favorite?

The hand-eye coordination test. Typically I think that’s a strength but after you go through several rotations in all those modules, it definitely has an impact on your concentration. I walked up to it and I thought, “This could be a piece of cake.” But then I lost my rhythm, I lost my cadence.

How did you feel on event day?

I don’t get nervous—instead, I get hyper focused. On event day I showed up and saw Tim Zeddies, who I had competed against four years ago. I thought, “This is going to be extremely competitive,” because I know what a great athlete he is. I enjoyed the camaraderie—he was pushing me, I was pushing him. But I was happy that we were in different age groups. 

What was the best part of the day?

Finishing the mile. Eating four tacos at Torchy's and drinking a couple of Modelos. I was so low on blood sugar when I finished, I think I had four tacos. Two of the fried avocados, fajita and beef tacos and a couple of beers. That was nirvana. 

What is your incentive to be fit?

Years ago, when I was younger I did it purely for the aesthetics, but now it’s more about being able to be active and competitive and focusing on longevity. Preventative health and thinking about where am I going to be if I'm still around 15 or 20 years from now.

What would you say to convince other men in their 50s to compete in the AFM FITTEST?

I don't think that you're ever too old to compete. I was just reading a magazine about a guy that’s 85 years old, who ran a sub-four hour marathon. Proper diet, sleep, and good training, and not being afraid to invest in professional help—I think those are the keys. Whether it’s a nutritionist, speed trainer, strength trainer, it’s worth the investment. 

Superpowers: Overall conditioning
Weaknesses: Cheese enchiladas with chili con carne sauce at Maudie’s
Enemies: I became a board member for SAFE (Stop Abuse Forever) Austin and it consists of Austin's Children Shelter and Safe Place. Safe Place is where Austin women go when they're raped, battered, abused and the shelter is where kids go when they're removed by Child Protective Services. It’s the largest nonprofit in Austin so I'm heavily involved with that and extremely passionate about ending child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence.


 

Maria Appelzoller

Women’s 60s Winner

 

What is your fitness background?

I was a runner. I ran six marathons and I don't run anymore. I'm a road cyclist now. I love distance—I'll go 50 miles in one bike ride.

How many times have you competed?

Just once, this was my first year

What inspired you to compete?

I saw last year's article and I saw a woman in my age group and I said if she can do it, I can too.

How did you feel on event day?

I was motivated. I felt energized and I felt that I was going to have a good day. 

How did you feel when you found out you won?

I was excited, it was a dream come true really because I love fitness. 

Favorite test?

My favorite test was that ball toss with both hands because I could feel my strength in both arms. I recently fell off my bike and broke my right wrist (I’m right-hand dominant) and had to get used to doing everything with my other hand. That worked in my favor. 

Least favorite?

Wall ball. It was a heavy ball and it got heavier as time went on.

Do you have any goals set for next year’s competition?

To get stronger for the pull-ups. 

What was the best part of the day?

The camaraderie of the community. I got to meet new people and see people that I already knew.

What would you say to convince other women in their 60s to compete in the AFM FITTEST?

I would encourage them to train with me and get them motivated. Once we're down the road of getting into training, I would convince them to come to the AFM FITTEST.

What is your incentive to be fit?

I just love exercising, it’s part of my daily life. I get up in the morning, roll out of bed and do push-ups and either go out and cycle or go out and hike. It’s a daily routine for me.

Superpower: I believe the world should be happy so my super power would be to bring happiness to everyone.
Weaknesses: Ice cream
Enemies: Ex-boyfriends


 

Kent Smith

Men’s 60s Winner

 

How did you react when you found out you won?

I was pleased and thankful for the people who worked to put on AFM FITTEST, the folks who have helped me, and my family. 

How did you feel on event day?

I felt good. It was great to see so many of the people in the fitness community that I’ve had the pleasure to meet and train with. In the competition itself, I had a couple of glitches (didn’t keep my concentration as well as I should), but also had a couple of events go well. I really enjoyed the day.

What inspired you to compete?

AFM FITTEST is a really important athletic event for me. It appealed to me from the first time I heard or read about it in 2012. I like the fact that the event tests all elements of athleticism: power, speed, agility, strength, coordination, balance, and endurance. I remember seeing Austin Fit Magazine with the pictures of the overall winners of the 2012 event—Greg Cook and Judy McElroy. Such athleticism! I was reasonably fit at that time, but was inspired to work harder and get better. I wanted to improve enough to win an event like AFM someday!

I got to know some of the folks who won at AFM: Greg Cook, David Braswell, Tim Zeddies, David King, Dane Krager, and learned from and was inspired by each of them, too.  

Did you train specifically for the AFM FITTEST?

I trained specifically for AFM FITTEST with Greg Cook, a two-time overall winner who coaches at Pure Austin Fitness. He focuses on speed, explosiveness, and balance, plus the mental aspects of competition, and is a great coach. I have also greatly benefited from sprint work with David Braswell’s sprint group, boot camps at Heat Bootcamp, powerlifting at Austin Simply Fit, and yoga at Wanderlust. There is so much to learn from all these different disciplines! I am practically a beginner in all these disciplines, but excited about the prospect of learning more.

Favorite test?

It’s a toss-up between the 40 yard dash and wall ball.

Least favorite?

The mile is my weakest event.  That means I need to work at it and make it one of my strongest events!

What was the best part of the day?

I enjoyed every aspect of the day.  It would be tempting to say that I enjoyed it most when I was through, but in reality the best part was the competition itself.

What is your incentive to be fit?

My incentive is getting to meet and be around so many great folks in the Austin fitness community. Everyone is positive and encouraging, and I have lots of role models to look up to! They show me that if I work hard, I can get better. This creates a positive cycle, where good things lead to more good things. And it helps to build a feeling in us, when we are faced with new challenges, in fitness or at work, that “I can do that.”

I am also lucky to work at a fine law firm, Reed & Scardino, LLP.  Many of the folks at the firm are interested in fitness. Reed & Scardino is a sponsor of the Boneshaker Project, which is working in schools and outside of schools to get kids involved in running, biking, and other outdoor activities.

Superpowers: What I see around me in the fitness community is not that people change from their regular self into some “other” superhero. Instead, they recognize the superhero that is already there. I think for a lot of us there is a better, stronger, kinder, more optimistic version of ourselves that is waiting to emerge, and that wants to emerge. If I was to name a superpower for myself, it would be boring consistency. I work out regularly, and I eat a very healthy diet. Nothing exciting, but I have learned that small, incremental efforts can add up to big improvement over a long enough period of time.
Weaknesses: Long distance running. The term “long distance” of course means anything over 400 yards.
Enemies: Procrastination


Team Winners on page 2.


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