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Community remembers Lt. James Zimmerman with annual fitness challenge

Since 2011, the annual 1st Lt. James Zimmerman Fitness Challenge has been held at the University of Maine to honor 1st Lt. James Zimmerman. A 2008 UMaine graduate, Zimmerman, 25, was killed in action on Nov. 2, 2010 while leading Marines through combat in Afghanistan. The Zimmerman Challenge is a five-hour physical event including running, ropes courses, stomach crawls and a series of physical fitness challenges.

More than 50 teams of four participants spent last Saturday taking on the fitness challenge. The weather was grey and it was spitting with rain, but some contestants actually preferred that.

“I thought it was a pretty good day for it,” Sydney Green, a second-year UMaine student and a member of University Volunteer Ambulance Corps (UVAC) said. “Rain felt good because we were running.”

Green asked three of her friends at UVAC to complete the challenge with her. Since it was their first time doing the challenge, the group signed up for a family difficulty level, which is open for all ages and abilities. Other tiers of difficulty included motivated, for the athletic and hardcore for those who wanted to undertake the toughest level of challenge.

“We did not know what to expect,” Green said. “I think doing the lowest level was a great way to get into it.”

The event started at the Steam Plant parking lot and the challenge spread out all throughout the campus. The first challenge was running with backpacks filled with sandbags around the mall. Green’s group had a 45 pound backpack and they ran eight circles, alternating the backpack between each other.

Other challenges took place near the baseball field and on the bike trails located behind the New Balance Fitness Recreation Center. UMaine Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) midshipmen set up numerous obstacles stations with the help of Army ROTC. Depending on their difficulty level, participants ran certain distance and did push-ups, pull-ups and several other obstacles including planking, stomach crawls, bear crawls, crab walks and more.

Green’s team did a total of eight miles worth of obstacles in an hour and a half. They completed most of it by running from one station to another.

“My teammates are not so thrilled with me right now,” Green said jokingly. “We had a couple of people who don’t run as much and that was kind of a shock to them. They are feeling a little sore now but I know they’ll look back and feel good about it. We’ve definitely bonded.”

NROTC midshipmen played a big role in putting this event together. They successfully fundraised earlier this semester and because of that, more proceeds will go toward the 1st Lt. Zimmerman scholarship. Set up in his honor, this scholarship aids future graduates from UMaine Naval ROTC program.

The midshipmen arrived at the Steam Plant at 8 a.m. to set up the stations and obstacles. Despite the cold and rain, the midshipmen gave their all to make sure that the event ran smoothly and was enjoyable to the community.

“Navy and Army guys were really helpful and motivated us all along the course,” Green said.

“I think it’s always important to remember individuals who have passed and remember what they stood for and brought to the community,” Mark Talvacchia, a first-year midshipman studying mechanical engineering, said. “Community is just a bigger version of family, and having events that bring people together is important. This is a great event and it really feels like the whole Orono, Bangor, and UMaine community all came together.”

After completing the fitness challenge, the contestants enjoyed some barbecue prepared by the members of the auxiliary from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3381.

“We stood by the fire, and it was really nice to be around the same people who just completed the same thing as you did,” Green said. She is planning to do the Zimmerman Fitness Challenge again next year. “I will try for ‘motivated,’” Green said.

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