Penn Hills’ Salah, McCann take 3rd at national fitness competition

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Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 9:02 PM


In recent years, there has always been a member of the Penn Hills fitness program who finished in the top five at the National High School Physical Fitness Championships.

This year, senior Steve Salah and junior Amanda McCann each took third at nationals in Fort Indiantown Gap.

McCann finished in the top five her sophomore year, while Salah finished in the top 10 as a junior.

Penn Hills fitness coach Bob Martini believes Salah’s leadership and work ethic played a key role in his success at nationals.

“When he first came in, he had that mindset that he wanted to be No. 1. He just didn’t want to be on a team. He wanted to really push it. He started to study his competition and watched their technique his sophomore year,” Martini said.

“We would practice two or three nights a week, while he would be at the gym five nights a week. He wakes up every morning and does 30 pullups. The last two years, he was the boys captain. He would make sure the kids listened to him when he gave orders.”

This year, Salah and McCann each had teammates who joined them in the top 10. In the boys competition, junior Cam Clark finished 10th, while Katie Russell finished eighth individually.

Martini has been pleased with McCann’s progression through the three years on the team. After her performance at nationals, Martini hopes to see McCann take more of a leadership role with one more year left.

“She pushes really hard. She started with three pullups and now she can do 21 pullups. She knows she can do it physically, but she will be leaned on as more of a leader next year,” Martini said.

“She has been going to the gym on her off nights with her uncle. She has the same mindset that Steve has with knowing she has to work a little bit extra.”

The participants competed in five events — crunches, pushups, standing long jump, pullups and 300-yard shuttle run. The girls team finished fourth out of 20 teams. The team consisted of McCann, Russell, Claire McDevitt, Chloe Lambing, Jali Ransom, Kamiyah Colbert and Rachel McCann.

The boys team finished sixth out of 23 teams. The Penn Hills boys team was comprised of Salah, Clark, Charlie Rosemeyer, Jesse Ternent, Matt Gemperle, Josh Gerken and Luke Hansen. “When we got to nationals, they were really focused out there. They did a really good job with being a young team. Out of the six guys on the first team, four of them are brand new. They never went to a big competition like this, and they did pretty good,” Martini said.

Last year, the girls team finished fourth in the nation, while the boys team finished fifth.

Even though fitness might not be one of the popular sports, Martini appreciated Ternent’s will and determination to participate after getting surgery on a broken thumb, an injury that occurred weeks earlier during the baseball season.

As another fitness season comes to a close, Martini can’t be more excited about the prospects of hosting another fitness competition in Penn Hills.

Earlier this year, Penn Hills hosted its first competition in more than three decades, and Martini continues to receive interest from schools that want to be included in the competition.

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