Jami Ronda, a Medford mother of quadruplets is competing in the Mrs. Oregon competition.
She gave birth to four children — at once.
She's been interviewed by newspaper and television reporters at least a dozen times.
It would seem Jami Ronda, mother of the Rogue Valley's famous quadruplets, has little left to fear.
But a terror of public speaking has stuck with Ronda, 38, through the 11 years that her children — Andrew, Anneliese, Matthew and Mark — have lived in and out of the local news spotlight. On Saturday, Ronda hopes to finally conquer the phobia as she competes in Clackamas for the title of Mrs. Oregon.
"I never dreamed I would do something like this, especially at 38," Ronda said. "It's weird how alive you feel when you're facing a fear."
Staying alive was Ronda's reason for embarking in January on a fitness transformation. Since undergoing in vitro fertilization and delivering her children by Caesarean section on April 2, 1996, at Rogue Valley Medical Center, Ronda happily became a stay-at-home mom. Yet focusing on her children — the only quads born in the Rogue Valley — caused Ronda to neglect her own physical health.
"My stress level was sky-high; my energy level was just scraping bottom," the Medford resident said.
A stone in one of Ronda's kidneys touched off a dangerous infection that required surgery last summer. Less than a year earlier, Ronda's first mammogram revealed a suspicious lump, which, once removed, proved to be benign. A family history of rheumatoid arthritis further motivated Ronda to make a drastic change.
"It was like an awakening, kind of," she said.
Ronda turned to a familiar fitness program — "Body for Life." She'd tried the 12-week exercise and diet regimen when the quads were 4 years old, but quit after only a month because she found little time in her daily schedule for workouts. This time, Ronda made a point of getting to the gym by 5 a.m.
"I couldn't have done it without lots of prayer and my iPod," she said.
Ronda's husband, 38-year-old Steven, took the second shift at Superior Athletic Club. Together the couple lost a total of 56 pounds and in March entered the "Body-for-Life Challenge" in hopes of winning $20,000 and a home gym.
"She was kind of sharing her story with everybody to get them to believe they could do it, too," said Jayson Tonkin, a personal trainer who helped the Rondas shape up.
Tonkin encouraged Jami Ronda to enter a fitness competition, but finding the concept too one-dimensional, Ronda looked for another incentive for maintaining her improved physique.
She stumbled across the Mrs. Oregon America pageant while surfing the Internet, but didn't seriously consider it until a few weeks later when an acquaintance asked her to speak about her fitness accomplishments at a Christian women's retreat.
"Put a microphone in front of me, and I freeze up," Ronda said. "I thought, 'I want to get over this for good.'"
Submitting a photo and one-page questionnaire to the pageant committee in May, Ronda secured the title of Mrs. Southern Oregon. On Saturday, at 6 p.m., at Clackamas High School, she'll compete against nine other married women ages 26 to 43, most from Portland and surrounding areas. Ronda is among the approximately two-thirds of Mrs. Oregon contestants who have no prior pageant experience, said Executive Director Libby Crawford.
"Most of these women totally blow away the stereotypes of girls who do pageants," Ronda said.
Many Mrs. Oregon contestants are looking to draw attention to their volunteer efforts while gaining the pageant's support for their pet charity, Crawford said.
"They're working hard for causes they believe in," Crawford said, adding that Mrs. Oregon places emphasis on contestants' physical fitness and self confidence.
Ronda's platform is preventing disease through health and fitness. But the competition also is a chance to fill in some "girl gaps" in her life, the result of being raised by her father since she was in second grade.
Describing her beauty approach as "more natural," Ronda is making a concession to acrylic nails, eyelash extensions and a spray-on tan. She's elected to wear a sarong for the pageant's one-piece bathing suit competition and hopes she can maneuver her evening gown's train without tripping.
"I think about 'Miss Congeniality,' the movie, a lot," Ronda said. "You can't take the klutz out of the girl."
Their vote may not count toward awarding the Mrs. Oregon title, but the quads are convinced their mom is a winner.
"I'm glad she's doing it because she's beautiful," said Mark Ronda. "She's fit; she's a good mom."
Mark's identical twin, Matthew, echoed the same sentiment as his sister Anneliese chimed in.
"I think it's a really good idea."
"She's very responsible, and she does good things with her time," said Andrew, the youngest quad by about a minute.
"I think she's the best mom in the world."
Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.