Local ‘Spartans’ compete for cash – and glory!

local-spartans-compete-for-cashThe producers of NBC’s wildly successful American Ninja Warrior are back with a brand new show that pits athletes against grueling obstacles for a cash prize of $250,000. Inspired by the worldwide Spartan Race franchise that sees would be warriors from all walks of life competing in a long-distance runriddled with rope climbs, rock walls, ice baths, and raging fires to leap over, Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge promises to up the intensity by delivering “one of the most demanding courses ever devised.”

The show features teams of four working cooperatively to traverse a landscape full of mud pits, fallen trees, and a series of man-made hazards that push the mind and body to their limits – all while trying to outrun and outmaneuver the opposition. Athletes from across the country – including our very own Sarasota – converged upon rural Georgia, where they spent eight days filming the race, which is set to air in June. While contractual obligations prevent participants from divulging the gritty details, both Adam and Kelli Jaco said the experience was brand new to them, but they are officially interested in doing more.

“My first time ever competing in an obstacle race was on NBC,” Kelli says. “The show really propelled us into it. My husband and I are avid runners, and in obstacle course racing it takes a good runner to do well – along with strength to carry heavy things. There’s a whole gambit of things you have to do.”

A retired professional boxer, Adam says the physical and mental stress of Spartan was nothing compared to fighting in the ring. The biggest challenges came in the form of testing the bond between teammates and dealing with the inherent distractions associated with filming a high-quality reality-TV show.

“It was like Ninja Warrior in the woods – it kind of threw us for a loop,” Adam says. “The entire time we’re running the race, there were hundreds of camera men, cameras in the woods mounted to trees, drones chasing after you. But that didn’t bother me one bit, not at all. Now, how it plays out on TV? … Of course I’m a little nervous [about that]. I’m wondering how this plays out. The good news is, this is NBC and they’re looking more for feel-good stories.”

Adam and Kelli own Jaco’s Boxing, MMA + Fitness Gym on Lawton Drive in Sarasota, which they used as a homebase for much of their team’s training. While their dedication to fitness and innate Spartan prowess helped them earn their spot on the show, Kelli says it was the working-parents, feelgood image that enticed the show’s producers. The couple is also full-time parents of two kids.

“We had interviews and we talked about our families – we both have children,” Kelli says. “And I think the producers at NBC loved us for our story as far as being parents – working parents – trying to inspire our children.”

Those interested in seeing local athletes compete on Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge can catch the show’s worldwide premiere June 20 at 10 p.m. EST on NBC, and every Monday thereafter.