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Park Lane tops Utah in fitness

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Park Lane Elementary has done it again — not that it's any surprise since the school has been the state's top performer in the President's Challenge fitness program for the past 11 years.

Park Lane officials announced Thursday the school was named the state winner of the President's Challenge for the 2005-06 school year. Administrators say the credit belongs to the community members who have committed to ensuring their children can run fast, jump high and stay active.

"The community has really embraced the fact that they want their kids healthy," said school principal Karen Medlin. "They want their kids to be physically active so they have really taken up the whole challenge of making sure kids are physically fit and getting them involved in exercise."

The President's Challenge fitness program has been around for decades and is aimed at encouraging all students to make being active part of their everyday lives.

Participating schools test students yearly on events such as the half-mile or mile run, sit-ups, stretching and curl-ups.

Students who score in the 85th percentile overall receive President's Challenge Awards. And schools with the highest percentile of students receiving the fitness awards are ranked accordingly.

Out of around 500 students at Park Lane, 198 students received President's Challenge Awards.

Chris Klein, captain of Real Salt Lake, visited the school Wednesday to help celebrate its 11th year at the top.

"This is a cool award because today it's harder and harder to be physically active because there are so many things that can take kids away from it — video games, cell phones, computers and 1,000 channels keeps you from wanting to do anything outside," Klein said. "To get this 11 years in a row, when you have so many things to keep you from being physically fit, is a big thing."

Medlin said the PTA is mostly in charge of the program, priming kids for the fitness tests and helping them train for it during the year. They also help administer the tests.

"In order to keep a child fit they have to have good role models — not just their parents but those around them — and our whole community is committed to that," Medlin said.

E-mail: terickson@desnews.com