S. Bronx wins fitness championship

Effort like that shown above during a pull-up contest demonstrates why South Bronx has been the National High School Fitness Champions for two straight years.

Setting a record pace, the boys of South Bronx won their second straight National High School Physical Fitness Championship in San Diego, California last week, and they did it for two special fallen friends. 

Aramis Aponte was a junior who would have been on the boys’ fitness team had bone cancer not claimed his life last October. 

“It was such a tragedy,” said coach Lou Schlanger.  “He was such a gifted athlete and would have easily been the #4 guy on this team had he not passed away.  It was a tough loss.  The team immediately dedicated this season to his memory.  They even called his sister the moment they won.”

Schlanger knows all about loss.  Just four months ago, the proud South Bronx athletic director watched cancer claim his own father, Henry Schlanger’s life. 

“He was such an inspiration for me when it comes to fitness,” Henry’s son proudly exclaims.  “I remember, as a five-year-old, watching him do pushups.  He did pushups up until weeks before his death.  I dedicated this season to him and it was like he was right out there with me; with us, as we won.”

The boys scored 2,368 points, putting them ahead of their closest competitors from Emmaus, Pennsylvania, by only 25 points. 

“It was as close as a 6-5 baseball game or a 28-27 football game,” Schlanger said.  “Every point counted.”

Elizear Torres helped put South Bronx over the top, scoring perfect point totals in all, but one competition.  After having cleared 10-feet in the broad jump, Torres came up shy of the perfect 44 second run in the 300 yard shuttle run, running the event in 44.19 seconds; good enough for 99 of the 100 points possible during the event. 

Torres would break a national record set 24 years ago, scoring the first 499 point total in the competition’s 43 year history. 

“There’s always room for improvement,” Torres said of his accomplishment. 

Torres, a football player for South Bronx, was followed by fellow gridiron greats Sylvestre Maldonado, who scored 473 points, and Cairon Charles, who scored 472, completing a comeback effort from a torn ACL he suffered during the football season in November. 

“What an amazing effort,” Schlanger said. 

The win marks the 8th time in 14 years that the boys have won the championship.  A three-peat is not out of the question. 

“I think we can pull it off,” Schlanger added.  “We are losing only three seniors at the end of the year and we are talking about a team that was so loaded with talent.  It is definitely in the realm of possibility.  I will have an excellent team next year.”

Schlanger is confident in his women, too.  Although they did not win this year’s competition, the young, inexperienced team scored their highest point total of the year’s five meets, and team member Cathalina Rodriguez finished 6th overall in the competition, with a 328 score. 

“I expect to improve even more next year,” he said.  “I’ve got a great group of boys and girls.  I’m proud of them all.”

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