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The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Mitchell Activity Center was buzzing after school at Father Judge. Crew athletes rowed on the "erg" machines on one side of a curtain that split the gym, while baseball players engaged in long toss on the other side. Athletes and nonathletes worked out together over in the fitness room.
The scene might not seem that unusual, but it used to be at Judge, until first-year athletic director Jimmy Lynch stepped in and implemented a wellness program.
In an initiative called the Patrick S. McGonigal Center for Fitness and Wellness, Lynch has held seminars for students, has launched an Iron Crusader fitness club, and has opened the weight room to all students after school each day and before school three times a week.
"Obviously, in education and in athletics, wellness is a huge buzz topic, and a lot of people don't understand what that is," Lynch said. "I've been doing a lot of emphasizing on bringing in different programming, bringing in fitness programming, and opening it to the whole school - not just the athletes, not just gym class.
"If you're a kid that doesn't play any sport, you still need to take care of yourself. You still need to eat healthy. You still need to work out. You still need to know how to exercise properly."
Before this school year, the Mitchell fitness room accommodated only students in gym classes and athletes during their teams' organized workout sessions. Now, not only can athletes use it on their own time, but other students can, as well.
Interns from Temple and Neumann Universities supervise and help students who are working out.
"It's a great enhancement to everybody because, last year, it was closed - I'm not sure why," said Tim Ralston, a senior rugby player at Judge who works out regularly at the center. "Because of this, a lot of people are actually here every day."
Lynch, 27, says he is passionate about the fitness and wellness program. He came to Judge last July, fresh off a four-year stint at Cathedral High in Boston that came right after he received a master's degree in sports management from Neumann.
A 2004 graduate of Council Rock South, Lynch said he was the first full-time athletic director at Cathedral, at Father Judge, and in the entire Catholic League.
"I came on full time here to rework a lot of things, but I really focused a lot on fitness and wellness," he said. "This is really my passion. I think this could be a model for the entire city and the entire region."
Father Judge students also can attend occasional seminars and try to join the Iron Crusader club.
Judge hosted a seminar on college recruiting in the fall and one on concussions last week. Lynch is thinking of organizing one on drug and alcohol awareness before Judge students embark on senior week activities.
The Iron Crusader competition (Crusader is the school mascot) consists of 10 activities - including runs, exercises, and weightlifting - with a fitness standard attached to each.
To qualify for the club, a student must achieve the standard in eight of the activities over a 30-day period. Each qualifying attempt must be witnessed by an athletic-department official.
A wall in the fitness center is dedicated to honor the members of the Iron Crusader club.
Except for the club name, the wall is blank. Lynch hopes that changes this spring.