RECORD SETTER Wilson student sits up and stands tall
Dominic Leonelli Jr. did 2,301 sit-ups in gym class to surpass his father's feat.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- What is the definition of a record?
Usually, it's at least one more or less or higher or lower, than the existing number.
Dominic Leonelli Jr. made it 101 more, although not by design.
The Woodrow Wilson sophomore-to-be surpassed the unofficial school sit-up record recently during his gym class.
It wasn't the record of just any former student; it was the record of his father.
Aiming high: According to Dom Leonelli Jr., the record was 2,200; some at the school said it was 1,800. Regardless, Leonelli did 2,301 for good measure.
It took place on May 31. Strangely, it was the same day and same period -- fifth -- that Dom Leonelli Sr. did it 20 years ago.
"That's weird," the 15-year-old said about the spooky coincidence. "I didn't realize it until my dad told me afterwards."
Dom's dad, several students and Mark Cherol, one of Wilson's physical education teachers, helped hold Leonelli's feet and count.
Shooting to at least surpass his father's 2,200, Leonelli had no other goal, except to do as many as he could.
"After 2,301, I went down and would have tried again, but I got dizzy and the room started spinning. My dad said I looked pale. Then I stood up and fainted. It took me a couple minutes to come around. I was real sore all over the next couple days. I had to roll over to get out of bed the next morning. I couldn't do a sit-up for about a week later."
Elapsed time: Cherol estimates that Leonelli started about 12:10 p.m. and continued through the end of the period at 12:55. He kept going and finished at about 1:20. That's about 33 a minute.
About 20 students were watching during the fifth period, Leonelli estimates, but it swelled as the bell rang.
"I looked back at the bleachers and saw a crowd," he said. "I guess word was spreading."
Leonelli knew his dad was the school record-holder, but no assault on the mark was planned until a teacher prodded the freshman.
Leonelli then asked Cherol about the feasibility of the feat.
"He said it was OK when I was ready."
Without prior knowledge of the significance of the 31st, Leonelli made his decision that day because he felt good.
"I didn't realize it was the same day until after I was done," he said. "I just happened to pick that day."
During the ordeal, the elder Leonelli provided encouragement and tried to comfort his son when the going got tough.
"He kept saying, 'no pain, no pain,' " Cherol said of the father's coaching to keep the rhythm. "I was getting pain holding him," Cherol said. "My arms got tired holding his feet down. But I was pumped watching. He sprinkled water and rubbed the kid down and gave him a couple sips of water. It was great to see the father supporting him. I was touched."
More motivation: There was some inside incentive for the 5-foot-5, 128-pounder.
"My mom passed away last year on June 8," he said. "When I started hurting real bad at about 1,500, I thought about the angel pin she gave me before she died. I had it in my pocket. My dad told me to remember that. Then I got into a zone and did the last 800 real fast. It's something that drives me to do better."
In the end, he thought he felt his stomach muscles ripping.
"After the 2,301st, I went down then came up for another. But my body wouldn't let me do it," he said. "My stomach muscles just shut off."
There was some conflict as to whether the previous record was 1,800 or 2,200. Leonelli said his father circulated the 1,800 figure because he didn't want his son to be disappointed if he didn't exceed 2,200.
"Those who didn't know my dad thought it was 1,800. Everybody I told knew it was 2,200. That was on May 31, 1981, in the same gym."
On a folding mat, Leonelli was supine with his knees up. He said he touched both knees with both elbows each time unless he switched arm position to keep from cramping.
Leonelli had a big breakfast but very little at lunch before his gym class. Afterward, he said he doesn't remember much.
"As soon as I got done, I changed clothes [and] went to my classes, but my head wasn't too good. I couldn't think," he said. "Between classes, people kept on stopping me."
Focused on task: The three-month preparation wasn't easy. Leonelli said he skipped weekends with friends to devote himself to sit-ups. His single-most output of 1,200 came three days before May 31.
At first, his father wanted him to attempt the record as a sophomore.
"He did it in the 10th grade, but it would be no challenge then. I didn't think he thought I'd break it because I trained for three months and he trained six."
Leonelli's penchant for physical extremes didn't end with his school record. He's taken an interest in boxing and has been training at the Downtown Sports Center.