Her athleticism is helping Wheeling's Danni Allen continue to excel on "The Biggest Loser," the NBC weight-loss reality show that reached its halfway point this week with the Mundelein High School grad still in the hunt for the grand prize.
As of Monday's episode, Allen had dropped 51 pounds from her starting weight of 258. She lost exactly the number of pounds -- 6 -- she needed to make it to next week's show. And her new weight of 207 pounds has fans looking forward to seeing her crash through the 200-pound mark.
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"Did this happen? Did I just beat Joe? Imagine what else I can do," she said at the end of Monday's episode.
Allen, who competed in water polo and soccer at Clemson University in South Carolina after competing in those sports as well as swimming at Mundelein High, far outdistanced her competitors in the first part of the week's challenge. She walked across a balance beam while avoiding swinging obstacles, but later difficulty matching numbers of calories to their food portions held her back for a bit.
Her prize for winning the challenge: letters from home. The only one read on the air was from her father, Tom. But her sister Nikki Allen said family and friends sent many letters and packages.
And the communication had a powerful effect.
"I feel strong, and reading these letters gives me that much more motivation," Allen said.
At Mundelein High School the "water cooler talk" Tuesday was about the show, said Ron Girard, the school's communications director.
"They were saying how much fun it is to watch her," he said. "When she was in high school she was a spitfire, and people said it's great to see she's still that type of person. She has a lot of spirit and an outgoing personality."
But what do you put in a care package for someone striving to shed every pound possible?
Well, things to make her feel pretty such as nail polish and lotion, said her sister, as well as news from the outside world, which is pretty limited at the "farm."
Danni Allen's "transformation" is what thrills her sister.
"You can tell she's got this confidence, this new light shining through," Nikki Allen said.
Danni Allen's formerly fierce trainer, Jillian Michaels, took her to a workout session in a parkour studio, which inspires acrobatic movements, for this week's episode. At one point she leapt from a high platform into a pit filled with foam. Despite her fear of heights, Allen dove into the foam -- and enjoyed it.
"It's fun, ecstatic," she said. Allen talks about the need to push through fear. A cutaway showed her confessing, "One of my greatest fears is living life alone. Weight has held me back."
Michaels said Danni Allen is fit and capable and "one of the very few contestants I could have ever brought in here (the studio). She's unique."
And the trainer paid her the highest compliment ever, calling her "almost a workout buddy."