It’s a physical endurance test not many of her peers look forward to taking. But Shelly Ledyard was determined to own it.
At 32, the Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper had taken the test three times since joining in 2006. She had always scored high, but never earned the perfect 500 score, a badge of honor.
That changed Oct. 9, when Ledyard, who turned 33 this month, toughed out the five sections of testing to become the first female trooper in OSHP history to reach that coveted mark. It was a hard-fought goal requiring months of training and sheer determination.
“I wanted to see how far I can go. You have to pretty much go above and beyond,” she said.
Mandatory for state troopers every two years, the test includes body fat percentage, a treadmill run, bench and leg presses, and flexibility. It’s based on a formula using age and weight, and takes about 45 minutes to complete. Each section offers a possible 100 points, and in each the troopers must earn within the 20th percentile of points.
“The majority of troopers don’t look forward to it. It doesn’t take much to pass it, but it’s not easy to get close to 400-plus (points),” Ledyard said. “The body fat or treadmill is what usually gets people. They have such strict standards.”
The treadmill test records stress. Ledyard said it gradually becomes harder as the speed and incline rate increase.
Troopers who reach a bit better than halfway to a perfect score are awarded a ribbon; if they go even a bit further they earn a star. And that’s usually where most choose to finish.
“No one really tries because it’s so hard to get it,” Ledyard said. “They don’t push themselves past their limit. It’s something you have to really want.”
The 2001 Evergreen High School graduate served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a recall year at Camp Fallujah in Iraq, where she searched women and children for contraband at U.S. checkpoints. Ledyard also earned an associate degree in criminal justice from Northwest State Community College while working at the Juvenile Detention Center in Stryker.
A member of the OSHP Defiance post, she first took the test at age 26, and reached the low 400s in points. After receiving 492 points in 2013, she decided this time to push for the maximum. That meant getting down to 10 percent body fat and enlisting a personal trainer the past year. The job went to Shem Neuenschwander of Marshall Fitness in Wauseon.
“I was really determined to get it. I wasn’t fully confident I’d get it, but I was hoping,” Ledyard said. “When we got closer to the time, that’s when we really pushed it into gear. That last month was very challenging. It was a very stressful, hard couple months.”
Neuenschwander said it was a tough workout.
“It was pretty intense. Everything Shelly does is pretty intense,” he said. “I knew she could get it, especially when I started seeing her results. Seeing her strength go up and her body fat go down at the same time, I knew she was going to nail it.”
Once Ledyard has a specific goal, she’s very determined, Neuenschwander said. “She completely changed her lifestyle to get this goal. It was 100 percent dedication.”
It was only after Ledyard completed the test in October that she learned she was the first female trooper in OSHP history, and one of only three troopers in all, to earn a perfect 500 score. Those accomplishments caught the eyes of senior staff members, who offered their congratulations.
“It’s a huge sense of accomplishment. It’s great to know that a woman could get there,” she said. “I’ve had people say that I helped motivate them, inspired them to do better.”
Defiance Post Commander Lt. Bob Ashenfelter said Ledyard accomplishment didn’t surprise him.
“She’s a very determined individual, very goal-oriented. She likes to excel at her duties,” he said. “She sets them high, and she works to attain them.”
While she’s in better shape now than during past tests, and has nothing more to prove, Ledyard said she’ll try again for 500 points in two years.
“I feel like I’m almost expected to,” she said. “I learned this time what can help me even more. So I’ll push myself further. It was my biggest challenge, pretty much ever.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.