By Michael Murillo

Maintaining the discipline to become a bodybuilder is an impressive achievement. Actually participating in a sanctioned competition is a rare accomplishment, and eventually winning a division in one would be a highlight of any athlete’s career.

But, by winning her Bikini division in just her second competition — the 30th Annual Tampa Bay Classic Bodybuilding Championships held June 9 at Gaither High School — New Tampa resident Morgan Ferrera recognizes that she already has accomplished something special.

“I was still in shock from winning my actual class, and then when they announced my number again as the overall winner for the entire Bikini division, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” said Ferrera. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Ferrera’s victory is a local success story. After attending Freedom High, she attended Florida State University and the University of South Florida. Now 23, she lives in Tampa Palms and her father, Dr. Robert Ferrera, is a popular local dentist and New Tampa Rotary Club member. His Ferrera Dental Associates has served North and New Tampa for more than 25 years.

In the Bikini category, competitors were placed into four division based on height (Ferrera was in group B). After being judged on front and back poses and comparisons with other entrants, Ferrera was named her group’s winner. Next, she took the stage against the best of the other groups in a pose-down for the title of Overall Bikini Category winner. Ferrera also took first in the Overall, earning a trophy that nearly matches her 5’-3” stature.

Ferrera might have had a short path to success in competitive bodybuilding, but it wasn’t an easy one: Five days a week of weight training, seven days a week of cardio training (the latter including 45 minutes on a stair-climbing machine followed by a leg circuit workout), a strict diet consisting of frequent, smaller meals throughout the day and an accelerated workout and eating schedule as the competition drew closer — all under the supervision and guidance of her coach, Aimee Bien.

While her aggressive schedule was physically taxing, those weren’t the only challenges she faced in preparing for competition. “The mental challenge is the hardest part,” Ferrera said. “There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed at 6 a.m. to do cardio, or go back to the gym after a full day of school and work, but I did it anyway.”

Avoiding food and drink her friends enjoyed was also frustrating, but she relied on support from her boyfriend, Chris Shultz, and trained with another bodybuilder, Kathi Ellington, to keep positive influences in her corner during the four months she prepared for the event.

In addition to trophies and recognition (her bikini division accomplishments will be noted in an upcoming article for a bodybuilding magazine, along with the winners of the bodybuilding, figure and physique divisions of the competition), Ferrera said she learned valuable skills that will help her in personal relationships and future professional careers. The importance of commitment, even when facing challenging obstacles, is critical to achieving goals and creating positive outcomes.

Ferrera also said that this victory isn’t the end of her bodybuilding journey; it’s just the beginning. The Tampa Bay Classic is a Level 3 competition sanctioned by the National Physique Committee (NPC), and once a bodybuilder wins at a certain level (graded from 1-5), they can only compete at higher levels in the future. For Ferrera, her next stop is the NPC Southeastern USA Bodybuilding Championships, a level 5 national qualifier held Sept. 29 at Olympia High School in Orlando. A successful performance there — a top-three finish earns national qualification and a chance to compete against the best in the country — will get her closer to her ultimate goal of obtaining an International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) Pro Card.

“I feel very blessed that I won at the Tampa Bay Classic after only four months of training, so I can’t wait to see what’s coming in the years to come,” she said.

For more information about the Tampa Bay Classic Bodybuilding Championships, visit For the NPC Southeastern USA Bodybuilding Championships, call (407) 474-8502 or visit

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