They may call it “American Grit,” but when the Fox military-themed reality competition returns for its second season Sunday, June 11, at 9 p.m., two participants will be showing Long Island grit.
One is Lindenhurst’s Riki Long, a former U.S. Marine who’s part of the four-person “Cadre” mentoring 17 men and women at “Camp Grit” on the private Hampton Island Preserve off the coast of Georgia. The other is the Merrick born-and-raised Chris Edom, one of the competitors seeking to “find their grit” through a series of physical and mental team challenges.
“I do not watch reality shows,” says Edom, 48, a substitute teacher. But after promos for “American Grit” prompted him to give the show a try, “What grabbed me right away was that it concentrated on the team element. Nobody was voting somebody off. It wasn’t a popularity contest. In my childhood, whenever it was a popularity contest, I lost. And I didn’t want to be on a show that made me or anybody else feel that way. You only rang out when you personally gave out or gave up. Your fate was in your own hands.”
Long, 30, a competitive weightlifter whose fiance, Daniel Tyminski, owns the CrossFit Lindy health club in Copiague, says that despite her expectations, she learned as much from the competitors as they did from her.
“I thought going in I knew it all,” she concedes. “I was a Marine — I had all this experience I was going to get to use to mentor civilians trying to find their grit. Little did I know it was going to make me find my own grit. And it really changed me for the better.” How so? “In the Marine Corps we have a thing: ‘Adapt and overcome.’ I had to adapt to what they needed from me as their mentor. It put me on my toes, taught me that everybody’s different, everybody means something in a different way, and I have to figure out different ways to help.”
The show also gave the San Diego native a forum to talk openly about her father, who “is currently in prison. I hadn’t really been in touch with my father for most of my life until about two years ago, when I started talking to him again. You’ll definitely learn a lot about that on the show.” Long was raised by her mother, who works in medical billing, and her stepfather, who just retired from the Marine Corps. “He was the one who influenced me growing up,” she says.
Edom, who married wife Joan in 2000, became a full-time dad after 14 years teaching in North Shore schools; he later began working as a sub “to keep one foot in father world and one foot in teaching world.” During his own childhood he had struggled with ADHD and OCD, and the show, he says, gave him a chance “to go on there and tell my story. And after 40 years in therapy and medication, this was the most cathartic thing in my life. I truly healed. I truly accepted who I am after all the obstacles and hindrances and demons in my life.”
Find their grit? These two not only found it but brought it home, adopted it and put it somewhere where it won’t get lost again.