Steph and Michelle: Small, Mighty

Steph and Michelle: Small, Mighty
By Newbear Lesniewski

An alarm bell rings, setting off a landslide of anxiety. The popular kids rush to their seats of eminence. From jocks to nerds, the rest rank and file. And somewhere in between, the real heavy hitters begin to emerge.

Sometimes, they dont even need to eat.

I didnt really eat at school. But I would always drink the leftover chocolate milks that were up for grabs, sometimes like 6-8 cartoons, Steph said.

Others preferred extra rounds. Even if that meant waiting til everyone else had gone first.

Id get anxiety if I got stuck toward the end of the line. I always preferred to get up there faster because the second helpings couldnt come quick enough, Michelle said.

For lovers of large amounts of food, the first thought concerning the pending overindulgence is often elementary: How does that little girl DO that?!

Neither Steph nor Michelle casts what anyone would call a large shadow.

Shocked, Steph said. Like, Oh, I wish I could eat as much as you, or Youre so tiny! How do you eat more than me? They just dont think its possible.

The best part is the funny reactions afterward. Especially when someone talks trash beforehand, and then has to pay for whatever I just ate. Im very competitive, so I enjoy shutting someone up whos been gloating. Im sure for Steph, its even funnier, Michelle said.

Each miniature eating machine pays a calorie penance. Steph attended college on a cross country scholarship, an extension of a childhood spent exploring the seemingly endless limits of her cardiovascular system.

I always just rode my bike around town, even to cross country practice. Sometimes Id go out for a couple miles before that - or take a longer route home. Ive always felt like I have to work to get somewhere, so pedaling is my work toward the destination. Plus its a great stress release, she said.

Michelle was also a strong, competitive runner. But for her, running may cause as much stress as it releases.

In general, Im not a huge fan (of running). Its boring. I have that ADD mentality, where I think of every other possible thing I could be doing while Im running, she said.

So Michelle gets medieval in the mud. Think: Spartan Race or Warrior Dash.

I do jump rope runs or throw some roller blading in to break it up. Crawling around barb wire and scaling walls is way more fun for me.

Both Steph and Michelle are new to the MLE scene. But theyve stepped in and stepped up as impromptu dinner date or road trip dares from friends spilled over to their respective Nathans qualifiers.

Steph took down 23 HDBs in Las Vegas; Michelle, 21.5 in Tempe.

Steph, an aspiring poet currently pursuing her MBA, gets down to business on the genesis of food:

Its always been something to bring people together; its a topic that comes up in conversation between friends and eventually becomes the focal point. From Hey, where do you want to meet for dinner? to Try this new place to families getting together all over the world in celebration. Food is the centerpiece, she said.

Michelle, a psychology major who one days hope to teach kids hands-on skills they can actually use, breaks it down for the competitive eating scene:

Its completely mind over matter. It forces you to go beyond what your body is capable of for sure. Pain is temporary - but the regret from not seeing how far beyond the limit you can really go is what would stick afterwards. I kicked my own ass for three years for even thinking that it was once OK to take a couple of walking steps during a cross country race. So now, Ill always try to take a couple more bites, she said.

Steph and Michelle have chatted a few times and each looks forward to competing on the big stage. Stephs excited and nervous, ready to sit down and make some new friends.

I love to travel - sometimes Ill just get on a Greyhound and go. But Ive never been to New York and Ive never eaten in front of 40,000 people, she said.

Michelle finds it all too surreal.

I know Im technically a competitive eater now, but I still dont consider myself all the way there. I feel like Im crossing the threshold. Its interesting. Its fun. And it comes with a weird sense of pride, she said.

She thinks Steph is primed.

I think shes gonna rock it, I really do. Im super excited for her, having seen some of her videos - shes just incredible! Shes one of those people Im just really excited to meet.

Steph couldnt agree more.

I think Michelles a very determined person who works hard and plays hard. Shes got a ton going for her and I just love her attitude. Weve got a lot in common and I can tell shes a great person. She doesnt really practice - she just goes and does it. And thankfully, its almost time!