We are smart, friendly, and fun! And, we love sharing our knowledge with you! Did you know each of us has undergone over 80 hours of intensive training in order to be able to best serve you? And, since you’re here, we assume you’re interested in learning a little more about each of us. So, read on. We’re pleased to meet you!
Wendy Miller, Lakeland General Manager–> I began running about 8 years ago after having my second child, with the encouragement of my runner husband. Like most new runners I did not like it and struggled with horrible shin splints. I came to FITniche to be fitted for a correct pair of shoes, and this changed my entire running life! I was able to run pain free and this helped me to really start enjoying the miles. Since starting my running journey, I have completed many 5k’s and half marathons (my favorite distance). In 2013, I decided to train for my first full marathon. I had no intention of doing more than one but I found I enjoyed the distance training and went on to complete my 2nd full marathon (Jan 2015). I hope to continue to love running and be able to complete many more races! FITniche changed my life, and I love having the opportunity to encourage and help others!
Milton Lyons, Lakeland Senior Crew–> I started running in the summer before my freshman year of high school to get ready for cross country. After that first cross country season, my passion for running quickly developed. I then attended Florida Southern College and ran cross country and track for the Mocs. Go Mocs!!
After college, I was actually the first employee to be hired at FITniche and started running marathons and competing in triathlons during that time. My first marathon was the Gasparilla Marathon in Tampa, FL where I successfully hit the Boston Marathon qualifying time. I’m a huge sports guru and still have dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, but time does appear to be running out.
Courtney Wheary, Lakeland Senior Crew–> I started my running journey at just five years old. I ran the Mayfair 5k in 1996, along side my mom. To this day, my mom and I still share the pavement and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am a 2nd grade teacher at Scott Lake Elementary and I have a passion for helping others. I love getting to know new people and helping them any way I can.
Sean Packard, Lakeland Senior Crew–> I started running sophomore year in high school. I really didn’t love it at first, I tried to quit multiple times, my cross country coach in high school didn’t let me quit though and told me I had a future in running if I chose to put my whole heart in it. I ended up having mediocre seasons until my senior year when I finally had a personal best at 17:04. Since high school I have dabbled in every distance from a 5k to ultra distance and even a sprint triathlon. I also married my beautiful wife Lindsey and we have a wonderful daughter named Blaire. We also have our fun loving and playful beagle named Cooper.
Levi Ferrell, Lakeland Crew–> Growing up in a family of runners, I was exposed to the sport at a young age, and I took to it as a way to to stay active and healthy. In high school, I played soccer and ran cross country and track. Recently, I have taken to training for and competing in triathlons, and I love the challenges this sport has to offer. In my free time I can be found riding around town on my motorcycle, traveling the world on mission trips, and volunteering at my church as a leader and mentor for the middle school students. I enjoy sharing my passion for adventure and sport with others and I hope to continue to impact the lives of athletes and people in my community.
Amanda Slattery, Lakeland Crew–> I started running my sophomore year of high school to get in shape. I’ve ran 14 half marathons and 3 marathons and qualified for the Boston Marathon. Currently, I am a sophomore at Florida Southern College majoring in exercise science and I run cross country and track there. I love running in all types of shoes, but my favorite has to be New Balance. I run in the Zante, 1400, and also my XC spikes are NB as well! College and running take up most of my time, but in my free time you’ll most likely find me sipping on a pumpkin spice latte while reading a good book or watching and cheering on the Tampa Bay Rays and Lightning
Chris Ellis, Lakeland Crew–>Hello everyone!! My name is Chris Ellis and I am an endurance enthusiast, through and through. With podium finishes in multi-distance triathlons as well as half marathon, full marathon and ultra distance races, my favorite thing to do is spread the knowledge of how the challenge of fitness is fun, not a chore. As a Type-1 diabetic, I am enrolled in the Master of Exercise physiology program at University of Southern Florida where I hope to use this degree to educate diabetics and entry-level athletes on how to enjoy life to the fullest. My wife and I are very active, and we both love to use fitness as a way to stay healthy and find fun and challenging new things to do together.
Brooke McMichael, Lakeland Crew–> When I was in high school I hated running. My coach would tell us to run two laps around the softball field and I thought I was going to die. However, in 2014, I graduated high school and my church invited me and my family to run the Shine a Light 5K. I went because it was for a good cause and it seemed fun since we were all going together. So, on October 24th, 2014, I did my first 5K and placed 3rd in my age group. I started doing more because I had such a good time and ever since then I’ve gone on to run more 5K’s, 8K’s and mud runs with my sister and my mom. In 2017 I decided to run in my first half marathon now I love running!
John Bryant, Lakeland Crew–> I started running my Junior year of High School, and haven’t stopped since! Running has brought me so many great moments, and has introduced me to some incredible people. Never did I think something so simple as running could influence my life in such a positive manner. Each day I am thankful for not only the opportunity to be active, but most importantly I am thankful for the relationships the sport of running has fostered. Throughout my short tenure in the sport I have encountered some of the most genuine and sincere individuals this world can offer. At the end of the day those memories and relationships are the greatest things running has ever provided.
Jacob Geisler, Wesley Chapel Assistant Manager–> I’ve been running consistently running since 2009. I run because it keeps me sane, it’s my vice. I’ve always been competitive and started running after college to get in shape. The rest is history. My favorite shoes to run in are the Saucony Kinvara, Type A, New balance 1400, Mizuno Hitogami. I love racing and I’d have to say that Age Group Worlds in Cozumel was my all time favorite. Second favorite race I’ve done was the ITU Grand Final Triathlon in Chicago. When I am not running or working at FITniche I make the most of my down time and enjoy doing NOTHING. I work and train a ton and I love it. I like surrounding myself with good people, but my outings and hobbies revolve around running and this industry.
Jennifer Walton, Wesley Chapel, Senior Crew–> I started running because my life had gotten pretty stagnant, and I wanted to create some new goals for myself. Running has changed my life in more ways than I could ever have imagined. I’ve been running for about three years now. In December 2016, it’ll be three years from my first marathon. I’ve enjoyed almost every race I’ve done, but if I have to pick a favorite I’ll go with the Boston Marathon. It just takes the marathon experience to a new level. My favorite shoes to train in right now are the Newton Gravity V and the Saucony Kinvara 7. I typically race in the Newton Distance. When I’m not running or working at FITniche, I’ll be honest with ya, I don’t do a whole heck of a lot. Running consumes a lot of my life. Occasionally, I’ll hit up the dog beach with my adorable three-year-old black lab, Porter. Other than that, I just enjoy hanging out with good people.
Trish Trout, Wesley Chapel, Senior Crew–> I was told distance running was crazy and I couldn’t do it…so I had to prove people wrong and then I fell in love with distance running, at least what I consider distance running! I ran CC in high school. I left running until 2009 when I ran my first 15k at Gasparilla, still took time off (years) and finally returned to the sport when I ran my first half marathon at Disney in 2012! Without a doubt the Boston Marathon is my favorite race! I ran it in 2014 as a charity runner and hope to run as a charity runner again in 2017! I definitely want to complete the 3 state side WMM, I ran Chicago in 2015 so I just need to run NYC, maybe in 2017…who knows maybe I will jump the pond and try for the rest!! When it comes to running shoes, I still haven’t fallen in love with one particular shoe.. The Brooks Ravenna seems to be leading right now but its always subject to change! I love to travel! Also, I love to watch my beloved Red Sox! I feel it’s also important to give back to the community so I do various projects to help local ministries throughout the year.
Jamie Vela, Wesley Chapel Crew–>I grew up in Utah watching my parents run and consistently being active. Being active was just a part of my life. You could always find me in the gym lifting weights or on the softball field. In 1998 I decided I would train, with my dad, to run the Saint George Marathon in Utah – I finished. I didn’t get serious about running again until after my daughter was born in 2004. Running became a part of life with early morning runs watching the sun come up, mountain trail running with my sisters and dad, pushing a double jogging trailer for six years, improving my time, increasing my distance, and keeping sane. I have run 5K’s, 10K’s, Half’s, Ragnar Arizona, and 2016 Gasparilla Ultra Challenge. My favorite distance is either a 15K or half. If I am not at FITniche I am with my husband and three kids playing card games, watching movies, brewing beer, and enjoying the journey called life.
Blake Cornwell , Wesley Chapel Crew–> I started running in 6th grade, and ran competitively all throughout high school. I prefer running shorter distances, and was a sprinter in high school. I’ve
been working at FITniche since I started college, and I’m about to graduate in May! I’m still a runner now-just not competitively.
Grace Troyer, Wesley Chapel Crew–> Hi! My name is Grace Troyer and I am currently a dual enrollment student at Wiregrass High School and Pasco Hernando State College. I have played soccer for six years and have always enjoyed running and fitness. Last year I ran track, which made me fall in love with the encouraging atmosphere that running provides. I can’t wait to help you all in your fitness endeavors!
Drew Carff, Brandon Crew–> I like running. No, I LOVE running. I started running as a way to get in shape for soccer. I was lucky to have grown up in an active family where both of my parents were Ironman Triathletes and avid runners. Running quickly evolved from a chore to a fun necessity that kept me (somewhat) sane and logical. I competed collegiality in cross-country and track at the University of Tampa. I am currently finishing up my degree at the University of South Florida. I have made the transition to triathlons; but running is, and will always be, my foundation. I am an Ironman finisher and Boston Marathon Qualifier with a 3:01. In addition to a compact list of talents, I teach the Good Form Running Clinics at Fitniche-Brandon.
Lauren McPhearson, Brandon Crew–> I began running about 7 years ago, when I no longer had high school sports to keep me active. I started off running a few road races in my home town and eventually ended up running for the college I was attending, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I ran cross country and track there for three years, and finished with a Bachelor’s in Athletic Training, and a Master’s in Sports studies. After college I began training for my first full marathon (Pittsburgh) and qualified for the Boston Marathon two times. I will be running Boston in April 2017 and hope to finish with a new PR! I have recently moved to the area with my husband, Jeremiah, and we are loving everything about Florida!
Hannah Whitmore, Brandon Crew–> I started running Cross Country my sophomore year of high school and then took a weightlifting class my senior year, thus quickly began my PASSION for running, lifting and a healthy lifestyle (the best of both worlds!). Immediately after high school I began coaching Cross Country and Track, and shortly after I became a Certified PT to change peoples lives through working out and healthy eating habits. Currently, I am working towards a BA in Athletic Training because through coaching I have found a love of working with kids to help better their lives and help them find their ultimate potential as individuals and athletes. I love every aspect of being a Trainer and Coach because I get to interact with so many different people and help change lives and reach goals!
Joe Fifer, Brandon Crew–> I started running when I was about 12 years old but didn’t run organized until sophomore year in high school. Later I ran in college at the University of Kentucky. After taking some time off I picked running up again in my early 40’s. I now enjoy running half marathons and, occasionally, other distances.
SUPPORT and BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Brandi Holmes, Senior Comptroller and Online Manager–> I started running for the first time in March of 2008 to get ready for a local 5K, and FITniche was the place to go to get me going in the right direction. I started working for FITniche in 2009 and in 2010 stopped smoking. (Almost no one at work knew I smoked for the longest time!) Since then I’ve worn several hats at the store and now work as the comptroller and bookkeeper. I’ve also completed numerous half marathons in under 2 hours and a marathon. I just competed in my first Cross Fit competition, and love to pace at many of our local races, helping motivate others to their finish lines. My husband is also an accomplished ultra runner. We both basically just love to work out and be active!
Rebecca Kimble, Customer Communications Director–> I began running 5 years ago, as a way to lose weight, after the back to back births of my two amazing children. In 2010 I raced in my first 5K and fell in love with the sport. Since then I have gone on to run multiple 5K’s, half marathons and qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2012, eventually running it in April 2014. In November of 2014, I decided to take on the challenge of long distance triathlons and in 2015 I completed three half ironman distance races. Running and triathlons have turned into a passion for me and I enjoy sharing my weight loss journey and healthy lifestyle with others.
Tyler Hurst, Project Manager of FITniche Events–>I’ve been running for as long as I can remember. Growing up we always had foot races with the neighborhood kids and that developed my competitive spirit. Although I was a sprinter by nature, my Sophomore year in high school I joined the XC team to stay in shape for basketball, and my love of endurance running quickly developed. I even finished my first marathon by the end of my Senior year. While I’ve dabbled in triathlons, my true passion is the marathon distance. In 2016, I moved from Indiana to Florida to turn my hobby of running into my career and haven’t looked back since.
Lucas Smelser, Operations Manager–> I spent much of my early childhood running for sports conditioning, but not until the end of spring semester of my freshman year in college did I begin to classify myself as a “runner”. Now 20 years later, running has become an integral part of my everyday life. I truly believe that running has transformative effects on peoples’ lives and I believe in sharing my passion for the sport with others.
At the University of Toledo, I studied Exercise Science with a concentration in Kinesiology and I am now working toward a Bachelor’s in Business at Polk State College. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to be able to compete in road, trail, and ultra distance races across the country, as well as many distance levels of triathlon. As always, train smart. The key to accomplishing your goals is to make it to the starting line! (Crossing it with a smile is a bonus!)
Rich Wills, Owner and Founder–>I’ve been a runner and triathlete almost all my life and now own several businesses related to running. Even though I don’t compete much in events anymore, I am the luckiest guy in the world to still be involved with athletes of every type, day-in and day-out, and have loved every minute of my work with FITniche over the last 10 years! Outside of work, you’ll likely find me reading poetry and business books, running, swimming or praying for guidance and thinking about how and when I can next get back to the mountains with my amazing wife, Julie, and 5 awesome kids!