Students See Results in the Weight Room

Fitness-Based Philosophy Transforms PE Curriculum

Students gathered in the weight room after school last Wednesday for the first of three powerlifting challenges. Music blasted as students cheered one another on. This moment was a culmination of the intense weight training that students have pursued in Strength and Conditioning classes and on their sports teams.

For the first time in Wheaton Academy history, multiple students are lifting to join the Thousand Pound Club by completing three lifting events: a bench press, a hang clean, and a back squat. To join the club, a student must lift a combined weight of 1000lbs. Only two other students have achieved this milestone, Derek Johanik ’19 and Josh Friedland ’21. This week, Jared Samuelson ’21 and Andrew LaPlant ’21 doubled the academy’s Thousand Pound Club memberships.


A Strength Training Program that Benefits Everyone

Eight years ago, Geof Weisenborn joined our faculty with a goal to transform our PE curriculum from a games-based program to a fitness-based program with an emphasis on performance. Since adapting our curriculum, we have seen an incredible increase in student-interest and participation in strength training. We’ve even expanded our class offerings to meet the demand.

Weightlifting clubs for girls and guys, including the Thousand Pound Club, are just one example of the way that strength training has impacted our school.  While this club is an elite achievement, athletes and non-athletes alike benefit from and enjoy using our weight room.

Student trains in Wheaton Academy weight room
Kathryn lifts weights at Wheaton Academy

At Wheaton Academy, we have 660 students but we offer a wide variety of sports that rival the numbers of large public schools. That means that we need a majority of our students to play sports and multiple sports at that. Coach Swider shares, “In order to ensure that our athletes are in peak performance, our PE classes are now designed to move student athletes to the weight room where they can increase their strength and performance. These students are motivated. They see the correlation between heavier weights and results on the field. They want to be bigger, faster, and stronger.” And as performance improves, our athletes have seen an increase in recruitment to collegiate sports teams.

Non-athletes enjoy our strength training program too. These students might not be looking for results that correlate to the field, but they like the results they see in their bodies—they enjoy building their confidence here. Kathryn Swallow ’21 took a Strength and Conditioning class for the first time last year. She shares, “What really motivates me is how I’ll feel while I’m lifting and how I feel after lifting. When I’m lifting it just makes me feel powerful. And watching myself improve and watching my weight go up? That makes me feel empowered—empowered to do anything I set my mind to.

Honestly, if I hadn’t taken Strength and Conditioning for the first time as a sophomore, I probably would never have lifted. Now, I’ve taken the class for three years in a row and I plan on lifting in college too. In class we keep our maxes from the beginning of the semester, halfway through the semester, and at the end of the semester. I can see how I have improved throughout the year and it makes me feel amazing about myself.

Anna Schoepke '21

At Wheaton Academy, we are continually adapting our curriculum to provide innovative opportunities for students to learn and grow both in the classroom and on the field. Our strength training program is just one example of our commitment to excellence across everything that we do.