ACE Presents 2004 Achievement Awards
Personal Trainer, Fitness Director and Group Fitness Instructor of the Year Winners Announced at IHRSA 2004

Posted: Mar 29, 2004 in

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Mar. 25, 2004 –The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America’s Authority on Fitness, today announced the winners of its 2004 Achievement Awards at IHRSA 2004 in Las Vegas. Awards were presented for Personal Trainer of the Year, Group Fitness Instructor of the Year and Fitness Director of the Year to publicly recognize the contribution these professionals have made to the fitness industry.

Top honors were awarded to Karen Merrill, ATC, Personal Trainer of the Year; Stephanie Harris, M.D., Group Fitness Instructor of the Year; and Debi Pillarella, M.Ed., Fitness Director of the Year. Each winner receives a $2,500 scholarship toward continuing education in the fitness industry.

“A skilled trainer empowers individuals to make positive exercise and lifestyle changes,” said Karen Merrill, 2004 ACE Personal Trainer of the Year. “Nothing is more satisfying than seeing the sense of accomplishment on the faces of my clients.”

Merrill is an ACE-certified personal trainer, ACE clinical exercise specialist and ACE weight-loss management consultant at Gold’s Gym in Lake Ridge, VA. She is director of personal training and oversees management and professional development of their personal training team. Merrill has also developed a number of specific training programs for specialized groups including pre/post natal, Osteoporosis and cardiac rehab.

Stephanie Harris, MD, the 2004 ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year, said, “I developed a growing love for movement to music and felt that I could bring something different to the group fitness industry. As a physician, I can present a different blend to my students.”

Harris is a neurologist who retired from active practice to work full-time in the fitness industry. She is now a group fitness instructor at the In Shape Athletic Club in Eugene, OR and a continuing education provider for ACE. Maintaining a schedule of 10 classes per week, she teaches total body conditioning classes with Step as well as indoor cycling classes. She developed a mature adult exercise program called Seniors on the Move, has written articles for Senior Living, and has provided workshops for seniors through OASIS and PeaceHealth Senior Class.

Debi Pillarella is the exercise program manager for The Community Hospital Fitness Pointe, located in Munster, IN., where she develops, implements and assess all fitness programs, devises a yearly budget, and recruits, hires and trains the entire fitness staff. She has presented for organizations such as IDEA and AFAA, and has written fitness articles and books including Adventures in Fitness for Kids. Most recently, Pillarella has developed a youth focused program entitled, Fit Trip for 1st and 2nd graders, as well as Take 5 for Life that targets 5th graders.

“Winning this award has been one of the most exciting moments in my life,” said Pillarella, the 2004 ACE Fitness Director of the Year. “The accumulation of my achievements as a fitness professional, and now the ability to be honored by ACE for those achievements is truly second to none.”

The ACE Achievement Awards were created in 1999. ACE honors fitness professionals who have excelled in the areas of client development, training techniques, successful marketing and revenue generation.

About ACE
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting active, healthy lifestyles and their positive effects on the mind, body and spirit. ACE pledges to enable all segments of society to enjoy the benefits of physical activity and to protect the public against unqualified fitness professionals and unsafe or ineffective fitness products, programs and trends. ACE accomplishes this mission by setting certification and continuing education standards for fitness instructors and through ongoing public education regarding scientifically sound health and fitness practices. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at

More ACE Press Releases