I was in the Makerspace a few weeks ago when I tossed a banana peel toward a garbage can and missed. I asked senior Carlos Nunez to pick it up for me. Nunez, being this year’s Parents’ Association Amicus Award recipient, of course complied.
But more unexpected was the noise that escaped Nunez’s lips as he crouched to retrieve my trash. He told the room he was very, very sore from squatting in his Athletic Performance class. And Nunez would still be sore three days later.
To one who is even slightly familiar with Nunez, this statement would seem out of character.
Nunez has frequently been referred to as “a computer science god.” His computer bag rarely leaves his side. Members of AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles have begged him for help on coding assignments and entreated computer science teacher Elissa Thomas to allow them “one Carlos cheat” during tests.
Nunez said that he would never consider himself an athlete, though he played basketball and flag football in middle school. During one game, upon kickoff, Nunez began sprinting in the wrong direction.
In his last quarter, however, the senior was forced to become a gym rat.
The high school athletic requirement of two years can be completed through physical education classes, interscholastic sports or independent P.E., according to the high school handbook.
Going into senior year, Nunez was counting on taking two trimesters of P.E. (His commitments to Medallion and the orchestra prevented him from taking any more.) But the school’s shift from trimesters to semesters for elective classes ruined his plan.
So Nunez decided to join the golf team and go for one semester of P.E. But by March, when golf practices kicked off, Nunez’s mother Maria had started a new job.
“So I couldn’t get to golf practice consistently,” he said. “I also didn’t want to break any rules about students driving other students.”
Once he had fallen behind a significant number of practices, Nunez considered joining another sport.
“There was track, but I hate running,” he said. “The tennis team meets in the morning and leaves school (for matches) in the middle of the day.
“Baseball is taken super seriously, so I couldn’t miss any practices. And I didn’t want to get yelled at. At some point I would miss a practice and forget to tell (baseball coach Chris Millsback).”
When asked why he didn’t consider the swim team, Nunez was surprised and asked, “It was swim season?”
He then settled on independent P.E. and approached P.E. teacher Michelle Myers for details. At first Myers said Nunez might be able to log his hours by playing basketball with his brother. But according to the program’s regulations, which are in compliance with the California Education Code, Nunez needed an instructor at least 21 years old who is CPR and first-aid certified.
Since Nunez had attended some golf practices already, head of high school Brooke Wells decided he needed only 12 more hours.
Nunez said Wells told him that if he did not fulfill his P.E. requirement by graduation on Thursday, June 7, he could still attend graduation but would receive a folder with no diploma inside. Nunez said he would have been fine with this scenario, but concerns over his waitlisted status at UC Davis prompted him to jump on the problem.
“I would have gotten the diploma when I finished (the P.E. requirement), but I was kind of worried because on the UC Davis waitlist (application) I saw something that said you have to update your graduation date,” he said.
“If I got in and then I told (UC Davis) I’m graduating two months late, I was afraid I’d get rescinded, so I didn’t want to take any chances. Not graduating on time felt like it could be a big deal.”
The solution was found through Rio Del Oro Racquet Club. Nunez is a member, so all of his classes were free, and he simply asked each instructor and the group exercise class coordinator to sign his independent P.E. forms.
However, keeping track of his forms proved to be another source of anxiety. Nunez (who was voted “most likely to win the lottery and lose the ticket” by his classmates in a 2016 yearbook poll) had multiple strategies to compensate for his forgetfulness.
“I always kept my forms in my computer bag or right next to my computer bag, and I made lots of copies of the forms,” he said. “I also took lots of pictures of the forms.”
This newly ordained fitness freak has since completed nearly every group exercise class offered by Rio Del Oro. Starting in late April, Nunez began attending Yoga Flow, Cycle Plus, Barre Fusion, Power Yoga, Athletic Performance and Zumba.
“I was the only boy at Zumba,” Nunez said. “Everyone kept looking at me. When I walked in, the instructor laughed at me, but after 10 minutes I was like, ‘Whatever! Just give me my credits!’ So I just danced!”
And dance he did.
“For all of the classes, I tried really, really hard because I had this fear that (the instructor) wouldn’t sign my sheet if I didn’t,” he said.
“I don’t know these people! They might have said, ‘Sorry, kid. Better luck next time!’”
Nunez took four yoga classes because they were easy and 75 minutes long. He especially enjoyed the 15-minute cool-down period, during which students go into corpse position (lie on their back).
Yoga Flow, which was his favorite, emphasizes transitions between poses and was laid-back, Nunez said, but Power Yoga was faster.
“(The instructor) would say touch your right leg to your left elbow while we were already in downward dog,” he said. “And then she’d say do that five more times!”
Athletic Performance was on the opposite end of the spectrum from Yoga Flow.
“Athletic Performance was kind of fun, but I thought I was going to throw up at one point,” he said. “There was no way I would have been able to do another class after Athletic Performance because I was like dead.”
Students completed 25 pushups and 25 burpees, then 20 pushups and 20 burpees and continued to decrease the reps by increments of five. Once they had finished, the students ran for three minutes, increasing their speed every 10 seconds.
“I saw (former SCDS student) Marisa (Fat) at the class,” he said. “I wanted to do the push-ups on my knees, and I didn’t know if I was allowed, but Marisa was doing push-ups on her knees, so then I thought it was OK.”
Barre Fusion involves a ballet barre and elements of yoga, according to Nunez.
“It was like calisthenics,” he said. “She’d have us do squats, and then she’d have us do little, tiny squats while we were already in the squatting position.”
Nunez said he was sore for two days following Barre Fusion and for one after Cycle Plus.
“That was interesting because as far as muscle stuff, (Cycle Plus) wasn’t very hard,” he said. “It was a lot more cardio. I sweated a lot during that class. It was wild.”
Nunez said his Cycle Plus instructor had the class sit up and sit down on their stationary bikes and occasionally increase their resistance.
“She’d have us do pushups while we were biking, which was hard because you’re already doing two things, and your brain doesn’t want that,” he said.
By mid-May, Nunez was in a rush to finish his credit, so he took easy classes every day. His 11th (and final) class took place on May 15. It was Yoga Flow, and Nunez said that as he meditated, he felt the stress of graduating on time melt away.
Nunez said that he will definitely continue to work out at the gym, but probably not as frequently.
“Getting buff is not a goal of mine,” he said. “It seems unnecessary and time-consuming. (Biology teacher Kellie Whited) says that most of professional bodybuilders’ muscles don’t even work!”
Originally published in the June 6 edition of the Octagon.
—By Sonja Hansen