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Willmar woman wins NBC fitness show

Jill May, left, a 35-year-old mother of four from Willmar, and her partner, Bennie Wylie, a renowned strength and conditioning coach, won the NBC reality series "Strong." (PHOTO COURTESY OF NBC)

Last summer, Jill May asked herself if she was strong enough.

The answer, it would seem, is a resounding yes.

On Thursday, the 35-year-old Willmar resident and mother of four, and her teammate, won the NBC reality series “Strong” and a $300,000 cash prize.

“I’m going on one hour of sleep right now,” a giddy May said Friday during an interview with KARE 11, just hours after hosting family and friends at the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA for a viewing party of the finale.

May was selected for the show after entering a video during an open call last year.

The show, produced by Sylvester Stallone and billed by the network as “a fitness competition show like no other,” paired contestants with all-male trainers from a myriad of fitness disciplines.

The duos competed side-by-side each week during strength and conditioning challenges.

At the end of each episode, two teams battled to stay in the contest by besting one another in a four-story monolith designed to “put every muscle and ounce of determination to the test,” according to promotional material from the show.

Jill was teamed with Bennie Wylie, a former college football player who later became a strength and conditioning coach in the NFL.

Upon entering the competition, May weighed 167 pounds with 31 percent body fat. Through her work on the series, she gained 24 pounds of muscle but lost 23 pounds in weight.

She now weighs 144 pounds with 12 percent body fat, according to the KARE 11 report.

The experience “showed me the body will do whatever the mind wills it to,” May said during an interview with the West Central Tribune in the buildup to the show’s premiere in April. “Part of my challenge before I went was that mentally, I just didn’t care. But a big part of what Bennie did was build up my mental strength again and reinforce that mentality that nothing I put my mind to is beyond reach."