breakfast with a champion |
Hard work leads to Wheaties box appearance
By Rick Davis
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A year of heroes" stories.
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About this seriesSince terrorists
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sacrifice of one to help others has been given
But every day and
everywhere — even in our very own backyards —
people are helping each other, though their work
isn’t often recognized. A Desert Sun weeklong
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The Desert Sun
CATHEDRAL CITY -- Getting your photo on a box of
Wheaties is no small feat -- regardless of one’s athletic
achievements. One has to stand out to show up on the orange
cardboard box that millions of Americans associate with "The
Breakfast of Champions."
Olympic champions, baseball
and football Hall of Famers, World Series and Super Bowl team
champions, Tiger Woods, the U.S. 1980 Olympic gold-medal
hockey team and so on.
For nearly 70 years, it’s been
an honor reserved for the creme de la creme of the
Next month though, a new General Mills
cereal will show up on grocery shelves with a marketing
approach that will target "everyday champions" and include
photos of six such athletes on the box. With honey-toasted
whole-grain flakes, crunchy protein clusters, almonds and
extra B vitamins, it’s called Wheaties Energy
It turns out there’s a local angle, too,
because one of the six everyday champions appearing on the box
is Cherie Gruenfeld, a 57-year-old triathlete and a desert
resident for part of the year.
Gruenfeld, Liz Sponagle
(New Mexico), Doug Ulman (Texas), Marie Bartoletti
(Pennsylvania), Chico Hernandez (Maine) and Malie Matsumoto
(Hawaii) were selected in a nationwide contest with Bartoletti
the grand prize winner of $5,000. The other five each received
Gruenfeld’s nomination focused on:
- Her triathlon successes that include holding three
age-group records in Ironman events, a stepped-up triathlon
competition involving longer distances.
- And a community-service fitness program called "Cypress
Kids." Launched more than a year ago by Gruenfeld, it benefits
a group of at-risk youth from the community of Highland near
San Bernardino.Gruenfeld helps raise funds to maintain the
program and also provides the coaching and structure which
keeps it moving forward.
"I enjoy doing what I’m doing
very much and feel it gives my life some balance," said
Gruenfeld, a onetime marketing executive who "retired" from
the business world almost 10 years ago.
"These kids in
the program are seriously at-risk. The program is making a
huge difference in their lives already. Most of them are 11 or
12 years old. They’re doing ‘short’ triathlons and 5K and 10K
races. I train them after school, on weekends and during the
school lunch hour. The program has taken on a life of its
These days, Cherie and husband Lee (a novelist)
spend half the year in Cathedral City and half in Blue Jay
(north of San Bernardino). The only woman in the 55-59
division to ever break 12 hours in an Ironman, Gruenfeld said
the desert provides a good training environment for Ironman
events and has been a factor in her record-setting (11 hours,
58 minutes for 55-59 women at Hawaii Ironman, 11:17 for 50-54
for Ironman Europe and an overall U.S. 55-59 women’s record of
As one of some 9,000 nominated, Gruenfeld said
she pooh-poohed her chances of landing on the box, but that
changed when she made the final 11.
"I’m thrilled," she
said. "But the winner (Bartoletti) was clearly the best
choice. She’s the embodiment of the ‘everyday champion.’
Getting on a cereal box, growing up, I remember the people who
got on it. You never dream you could be on there, too. And
it’s forever. It sure impressed the kids in my program,
probably more than my triathlon records. They’re doing
Gregory Zimprich, a spokesman for Wheaties
Energy Crunch-manufacturer General Mills, applauded Gruenfeld
as "a true everyday champion."
"Cherie’s an individual
who demonstrates a balanced life, achieving compelling
athletic accomplishments and volunteer community service," he
said. "She’s making a profound difference in the lives of
Rick Davis is a sports reporter for The
Desert Sun. He can be reached at (760) 778-4655.
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