March 31, 2006

Boot Camp a Life Changing Experience for Aragon

By John Philip Wyllie

Long distance runner, Jonathan Aragon is not likely to break any records this year in the 1600 meter and 800 meter events that he runs, but this Mexican-born Hilltop High senior still manages to inspire his teammates.

“Starting as senior with (competitive) running he is at a disadvantage running against more experienced distance runners, but he has maintained a very positive attitude. He has to work out independently quite a bit and he will go off on his own and run five or seven miles by himself on the streets to get his distance workout,” said Lancer coach. Mark Hedderson. “He is a captain, a leader and an excellent role model. He is also an outstanding student as well. I am also his English teacher, so I get to see his academic strength as well as his athletic strength. He is an excellent runner now, but I only wish I could have another year with him. If he pursues track in college I think he will produce some really excellent times.”

Aragon spent the first 16 years of his life in Tijuana. He enrolled at the South Bay school mid-semester last year when his parents relocated to Chula Vista. Prior to his arrival, he was never involved in organized sports. By his own admission, he was never really an athlete and “always kind of chubby.” That all changed last summer thanks to a special program that teaches students self-confidence and how to take responsibility for their actions.

“Camp Devil Pup is a free program put on at Camp Pendleton every summer,” Aragon explained. The experience is pretty close to what boot camp is like. We slept in Quonset huts and went through parade training and they were in our faces yelling at us a lot of the time. It was hard.”

The 10-day program for both boys and girls age 14-17 provides challenges and teaches teamwork and discipline. Activities include conditioning exercises, first aid training, leadership classes, swimming and camping. Students also receive instruction on developing self-confidence, setting goals and the hazards of drug and alcohol abuse.

“The experience was unforgettable,” said Aragon. “I used to have a problem with slacking and not being punctual and they helped me with that. They also taught me the importance of helping others and working together as part of a team. I also learned to never give up on things.”

Continuing to train on his own, Aragon dropped 30 pounds and got himself into good enough shape by last fall to compete for his school in the grueling sport of cross county. Once involved, he discovered that long distance running is both challenging and rewarding.

“You meet a lot of people from other schools and everybody has been very encouraging. Everybody here has been great,” he said.

The season is just getting underway, but Aragon has already won two events (800 and 1600) versus Southwest and he took second in the 800 and third in the 1600 against Montgomery.

Aragon’s immediate academic goal is to pass his portfolio exhibition which he needs for graduation. Assuming he is successful, he will then enroll in a community college for two years after which he hopes to transfer to UCSD. Ultimately, he would like to become a pediatrician.

“As a senior (rookie) I know I am at a disadvantage. I got into the sport a little late, but I am not going to quit. I am going to keep on trying. I want to continue elevating the level of my speed time by time.”

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