Close Calls, Fierce Competition at Team Universe

Try, Try Again: Rachel Baker (posing during her Jr Nats shoot) finished third in physique’s short class at Team Universe, her third show in a row finishing one slot away from pro status.

Who says it’s easy to win a pro card at Team Universe? Despite even more cards and another division, no one currently on the Studio turned pro at Team U this year—slight drop from last year’s wingding when six from our roster earned IFBB status—but there were plenty of memorable close calls in New Jersey over this past weekend and the results suggest good things to come.

Topping the oh-so-close list is one of our newest stars, Rachel Baker, who could very well be the darling of the new physique division and the most recognized. She’s already just missed becoming one of the earliest physique pros with second-place finishes at both the Jr. USAs and Jr. Nationals. (Don’t miss the excellent clips loaded with audio content from her shoot in Chicago up now with pictures soon to come.)

This time, runner-up would have landed her a pro card, but Rachel slipped to third in the short class and the prize eluded her again, continuing a pattern of near misses that would be comical if the former gymnast from Baltimore, Maryland weren’t already a rock-solid fit for the new division who’ll just keep trying until she wins.

Also one spot away from the pros was hometown girl Patty Zariello, who brought her best package ever to the national stage and claimed third in figure class E, one of the biggest groups in the show. Perhaps even more significant, Patty also competed in and won her 35-and-over class, a definite confidence booster if she decides to compete at the Masters Nationals coming up on July 22nd in Pittsburgh.

Unstoppable Star: Wendy dazzled in many ways at Team Universe. Photo credit: Dan Ray.

Next there’s Sasha Brown, quietly adding another top finish to her impressive resume after taking fourth in figure’s sprawling class D, the largest of the show with 35 competitors. Sasha’s been busy on stage and headed into Jersey after taking third in her class at Louisiana’s Greater Gulf States and winning at the Southern Cal Championships this summer. After the show, she crossed the river into Manhattan and did some sight-seeing, stopping for lunch at a yummy pizza pie parlor. This is what fitness fans and competitors alike might call window candy.

Finally, Wendy Fortino made first callouts in figure class A and was poised to grab one of the top spots before ending up a questionable fourth. But it’s fair to say she accomplished something extraordinary considering she was just getting over a bout with pneumonia that struck in the last week of prep. The fact that she even was able to compete at all—let alone nearly win—speaks volumes about her determination and resilience.

Wendy plans to try again at the USAs July 29th. After clearing this past hurdle with flying colors, nothing shy of an amazing physique will be enough to beat her.

~ by Dean Sucich on July 13, 2011.

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