Student athletes show Marines they measure up
By Sgt. Jimmie Perkins
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | May 18, 2003
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT, SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
When it comes to physical fitness, Marines are known for setting high standards of performance and dedication. So when 174 male and female high school students arrived here for the 2003 National High School Physical Fitness Championships, they were put to the test by some of the most motivational fitness instructors on the planet, United States Marines.
"I think it is a great thing for the youth of America to be so actively involved in physical fitness," said Staff Sgt. Allen Young, logistics chief for 2nd Recruit Training Battalion. " Over the last four or five years, particularly when I was a drill instructor for a couple years, I trained recruits. Seeing the shape some were in when they came to us concerned me about what kids today were doing to stay fit. Seeing this here is heartening. The young kids out here, over the last couple of days, have been amazing at the level they are competing and the effort they put into it. It makes me proud to participate in something like this."
The national championships are sponsored by the United States Marines Youth Foundation and hosted by Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif. The competition brought together top high school athletes from 12 schools across the country, united in competition and the belief that physical fitness is the key to a bright future.
"Fitness has always been a problem in this country," said Rick Ecker, Executive Director of the United States Marine Youth Foundation. "This program addresses healthy lifestyle choices for our young people in a way that provides a no-cost program to schools that works."
Teams of six athletes compete in five consecutive events: sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, standing long jump, and the 300-yard shuttle run. Competitors have three minutes to complete as many repetitions for each exercise and take three minutes between each exercise. Individual scores are compiled for a team score. Awards are given to both individuals and teams.
The top female athlete was Brenda Pineiro from Mar Vista High School, Imperial Beach, Calif., who scored 408 points overall. She posted a perfect score of thirty dead hang pull-ups, a feat that impressed all of the Marines judging the competition.
"I'm so excited because this is my senior year and my final year with YPF, so I get to graduate knowing that I was the national champion," said Pineiro. "I saw how well the team did when I first started so I wanted to keep going, seeing all the success we were having; it kept me motivated."
The top female team this year was from Lanai High School from Lanai, Hawaii. Coach Curtis Kamelamela said their outstanding performance was due to the close bonds the team built.
"I attribute their success to the fact that they come from a small community where they all have grown up together. So they look out for one another and push each other to succeed," said Kamelamela. "It's not only performance at practice and hard work, but also the natural sense of teamwork they have between themselves."
Bringing home top male athlete honors was Wes Fiser from Catholic High School, Little Rock, Ark., who scored 485 points overall.
"I feel pretty good about my performance," said Fiser, a senior. "The program has been a huge aspect of my life that has totally oriented me towards wanting to be fit, and exert myself to my full potential physically."
The top male team this year was South Bronx High School from New York, led by coach Lou Schlanger.
"It's a great thing for my athletes. It allows some of my kids to come forward and be successful at something that takes a lot of dedication and effort," said Schlanger. "I couldn't be prouder of my athletes. They absolutely went to the mat every day in practice and in the competition; they couldn't try harder and I am so proud of them."
The first test of the Marine Corps Youth Physical Fitness Program (YPF) took place in 1958 at a high school in New York City. Started by Recruiting Station, New York City, YPF was modeled after the Marine Corps' Physical Fitness Test administered at the recruit depots at the time. By 1960, YPF had moved under the umbrella of the United States Marines Youth Foundation whose focus was, and continues to be, to guide our nation's youth down a path of healthy living, free of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The program has grown to include 1,126 schools, reaching more than 134,000 student athletes. Today Marines continue to remain involved. In many communities, local recruiters and reservists make time to help train the athletes.
"It lets them see another side of the Marine Corps other than the dress blues," said Staff Sgt. Craig Harris, a recruiter from RSS Indio, Calif. "They can see that we also spend a lot of time with physical training and that it is not just a chore but a philosophy."
Harris' recruiting area includes Coachella Valley High School, who participated in the national championships. He stated that the program offers many benefits to both the students and the Marine Corps.
"This program opens these students up to opportunities," said Harris. "Opportunities to improve their health and body, opportunities to build self-esteem, maybe even to plant the seed of service to their country."