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Parents raise funds so kids can pump iron


Lifting the heavy load of responsibility that renovating the C. Milton Wright High School weight room entails isn't too much for a dedicated group of parent volunteers. Instead, the Strength and Conditioning Improvement Committee has shown enough muscle and endurance to see the two-year project through to construction, set to begin next month.

The new weight room will be 3,000 square feet; the existing weight room is less than half that size. Two walls will be removed, a rubberized floor and new sound system will be installed, and the ventilation system will be improved. The cost of the project will be about $17,000.

Students and physical education teachers said a new weight room is worth the price.

"It's long overdue here," said Jim McNicholas, athletic director at C. Milton Wright. Enrollment has grown in recent years. C. Milton Wright has 1,790 students, and 414 of them are currently enrolled in a weight-training class.

"They're signing up for it right and left," said Chris Battaglia, assistant principal at C. Milton Wright.

Larkin Canington is the parent volunteer who is spearheading the operation.

"I can't think of a bigger project that benefits more students," Canington said. "We want this to be a focal point for kids to hang out and get in shape." Canington was a driving force in the effort to raise funds, which have been collected mainly through solicitation.

"It's a combination, but the meat of [the funding sources] would be small corporations that have a link to this community," he said.

The weight room will be expanded at the expense of the school's wrestling room. A new space for wrestling is being sought.

Battaglia said a fitness room and a space in the cafeteria were possible places to house the wrestlers. "Wrestling is a season," Battaglia said, noting that the weight room will be used year-round by all athletes. The need for a larger weight room takes precedence, he said.

"It's way too small," senior Christina Frank said about the weight room. Often, two classes use the weight room simultaneously. Such a large number of students cannot fit, forcing some into the hall or to neighboring rooms for cardiovascular activity.

"Supervision is an issue," Battaglia said. "[The new room] will enable [the teachers] to see everything for the most part."

The University of Maryland School of Medicine cautions teens who are lifting weights to use the proper techniques. The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System estimates that between 1991 and 1996 more than 20,000 injuries associated with strength-training equipment occurred in people younger than age 21. Forty percent to 70 percent of the injuries were muscle strains.

"If you teach them correctly, they should be fine," Bonnie Fry, physical education supervisor for C. Milton Wright, said. "What you're trying to do [in strength training] is prevent injury and increase mobility," McNicholas said. "If you have a stronger body, you'll be able to fight off injury.

"Our philosophy is that we don't push weight training until the joints have stopped growing," McNicholas said. The high school has a "Red Shirt" program that introduces correct lifting techniques to interested eighth-graders from Southampton Middle School. The high school staff supervises the program.

At a time in which many high school athletes belong to health clubs, quality equipment and knowledgeable instruction is expected.

"It's real instruction going on; it's like having your own personal trainer," Battaglia said. "We'll be able to compete with the health clubs with no cost to the athlete."

C. Milton Wright offers two levels of weight training. Weight Training I focuses on building muscle mass. It incorporates a program used by the University of Maryland known as Bigger Faster Stronger and is popular among student athletes. Weight Training II is available for students interested in toning muscles.

Workers will begin removing the weight room's floor tiles next month; it is the only part of the process that will be paid for by the school system.

"It's more work [than I thought]," said Canington, "but it's OK. I was prepared for the long haul."

Once the project is complete, a display near the renovated room will give recognition to individual and corporate contributors to the project.

Steve Glock of Glock Smidt Engineering in Forest Hill, designed the project, which was approved by the Board of Education at its meeting Jan. 12.

Also approved at the meeting was a project that will provide above-ground dugouts for the baseball team.

Bryan Farrell is a parent volunteer who organized that effort.

"It'll look really good for the baseball team and for the school," Farrell said. Several other parent volunteers will join Farrell to build the dugouts for the boys varsity baseball field, located in front of the school. The project has been in the works for about nine months.

Ryan Restoration Inc., Farrell's construction company, will donate nearly $2,000 worth of materials for the project.

It was involvement in his son's travel league that sparked his interest in improving the fields at C. Milton Wright.

"[The baseball complexes are] just so nice down in the south," Farrell said. "I thought it'd be nice to have improvement on some of these fields, bring it together a little bit."

"It's contagious," Battaglia said of the improvements. "People see something nice and want to join right in."

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