Reality Check: Ohio Township woman competes on 'Broken Skull'
August 9, 2014 12:00 AM
"Swissvale's Gwen Crew was eliminated on the most recent challenge of "Face Off."
By Maria Sciullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ashley Graff, all 5 feet and 110 pounds of her, wore pink.
The Ohio Township native sported such an outfit on a TV reality show recently: pink top, pink hairband, pink shoes. Such an ensemble would pass as unremarkable on say, “Big Brother” or “Survivor” but this was CMT’s “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge,” where big muscles and bigger displays of trash-talking are de rigueur.
The “Broken Skull” event is a combination of insane obstacle course events, where hand-to-hand combat under the desert sun isn’t even the toughest part of the challenge. It’s a showcase, pitting groups of impossibly fit men and women.
Ohio Township native battles on 'Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge'
Ohio Township's Ashley Graff (in pink) roughs it up with Morgan Farris in the August 10 episode of CMT's "Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge."
“Honestly, when I was there, I wasn’t scared, I was having fun,” said Ms. Graff, 26. “I like getting my adrenalin pumping, being put into situations and seeing the result of it.”
Each episode begins with eight men or eight women sizing each other up amid snide commentary. That just wasn’t Ms. Graff’s personality: “You don’t have to be mean to be a badass,” she said, clearly undaunted by the experience.
Pairs of athletes compete in three rounds of single-elimination challenges guaranteed to exhaust both parties. A video clip promoting this week’s episode features Ms. Graff and San Diego’s Morgan Farris flying face-down into clouds of dirt as they attempt to wrest a large coil of rope from the other’s grasp.
Her episode airs Sunday at 9. She filmed it in March and, while contractually prohibited from discussing the details, said that her attempt at winning $10,000 was eminently more fun than frustrating.
Ms. Graff said her competitors called her “Office Lady,” but not unkindly. She works for Highmark, analyzing health benefits. An avid runner who was a cheerleader at Avonworth High School and didn’t begin working out until she arrived at West Virginia University, Ms. Graff can usually be found running up Mount Washington or the Duquesne steps at lunchtime.
She has branched out from running, adding yoga, kickboxing and Boot Camp sessions to her training.
“So when I saw this show I thought ‘I spend all day at the gym ... and I kind of wanted to put my athletic ability to the test.’”
’America’s Got Talent’
Two acts with local ties will be featured on Tuesday’s live broadcast of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Young pianist Adrian Romoff — a former Pittsburgher now living in Atlanta — and “mystifier” Mike Super of Peters Township will no longer have to impress only the judges. Viewers’ vote tallies will be announced on the live Aug. 13 show.
’So You Think You Can Dance’
• The Season 11 tour of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” top 10 leaps into the Byham Theater Oct. 29. More information at www.fox.com/dance.
Swissvale artist Gwen Crew was eliminated from “Face Off” (Syfy, Tuesdays) on an “ancient aliens” challenge. Even Ms. Crew admitted it was not her best work.
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478 or
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