From left: Little Giants team members pictured left to right: Dustin Livengood, Jodie Fleming, Kevin Donoghue, Corey Raymo and Liz Schlagel.

A North Carolina Central University breast cancer researcher is among the amateur athletes competing in the new season of “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge,” which airs Monday nights on NBC

Jodie Fleming, who joined the NCCU staff in 2012 after earning her Ph.D. at Rutgers University, is part of a five-person team — three men and two women — called the Little Giants. Each person of the team stands 5-feet-five-inches or shorter.

“We bonded when we first met,” Fleming said. “We are trying to prove that being smaller isn’t a drawback.”

During the show’s season premier on June 12, the Little Giants made it past four other teams to earn a spot in the next round of competition. The show was filmed earlier this year in Atlanta, but the results will not be disclosed until the final episode.

The show requires teams to traverse an obstacle course designed to test endurance, strength and agility. The winning team will get $250,000.


Fleming grew up outside of Pittsburgh, where she was a cheerleader, gymnast and horseback rider. She became an obstacle-course athlete more than five years ago and now participates in individual competitions at events around the world.

Fleming said her appearance on the show required not only navigating a course filled with ropes, mud pits, slip walls and other obstacles, but also team work and cooperation.

“This is different from competing as an individual, because we have to work together as a team,” she said. “You take what you have learned training as an individual and add cooperation and communication. It takes it to a whole new level.”

Fleming said she trains at least two hours daily by working out at a Durham fitness center or by running, often taking to the trails at state parks.

As a breast cancer researcher, Fleming knows the importance of good health

“I try to live a healthy lifestyle, because I know that is one of the best ways you can prevent cancer,” she says. “I try to pursue the kind of lifestyle I tell other people to adopt. Exercising is also great for stress.”