Student breaks record, raises bar

Dennis Mejia isn’t the fastest boy in the world—but he does have the best endurance in the USA.

Mejia, a 14-year-old at Central Middle School, broke the national record Sept. 19 in the PACER test of endurance.

The highest possible score is 247 -- that is where the counter stops. His score was 247. The previous record was 169, according to the Cooper Institute, which administers the test.

While the counter stopped at 247, Mejia did not. As his classmates reached their limit and sat down he was still going.

“I could have done 50 more,” he said.

The test is a part of the much broader physical education test known as the Fitnessgram. The Fitnessgram includes push-ups and sit-ups.

According to Bill Ardito, Central Middle School physical education and health teacher, each year students in grades 4 through 12 participate in the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run test. Students line up in the gym and at the sound of a bell run to a designated line on the other side and back. A student’s score is how many laps they complete.

At first, Ardito thought Mejia had only broken the school, maybe Delaware’s, record. But after checking with the Cooper Institute he discovered the highest recorded score was 169.

“I swear it looked like he was going to do 100 more,” Ardito said. “Usually people get to 80 or 90 and they look like they’re going to die.”

Mejia wasn’t the only student to break the record—he was the only one to break it by such a large margin.

Anthony Fisher, a Dover High School student, held the school title at 146 when he was a Central Middle student four years ago— an accomplishment he was proud of.

“Not only did I break the record, but I left something behind for me to be remembered by,” he said.

He’s proud a student from his old middle school broke the record.

“He stripped me of my medals, but he set something that is pretty impressive,” he said.

Christian Cortes, 13, had the latest record at 150. He only held his title for a week before Mejia came along.

“He’s not human,” Cortes said of his classmate.

Mejia, from Honduras, said soccer is his favorite sport. He attributes much of his endurance to that because whenever he has spare time he spends it playing, whether it’s on a team or in his backyard.

His mother, Carmen Mejia, said he was a hyperactive kid growing up. She still has to calm him down every so often.

“He’s always outside playing with his ball,” Carmen Mejia said. “I have to tell him to come in or he’ll be outside forever.”

Fellow classmate Kaylan Parker stopped at 60. She was astounded by Mejia’s level of endurance.

“Wow, I would not be able to do that,” she said.

Central Middle School Assistant Principal Dave Thomas, was equally surprised.

“It certainly raises your eyebrow,” he said. “This was a record that was set four years ago. Then, when someone comes in and shatters it at the level Dennis did, you wonder if we were measuring correctly.”

But after Ardito checked there was no question.

“It’s very uncommon to have a child come and smash a record like that,” Thomas said.

Other students in the community will have a chance to prove their endurance Oct. 21 when Central Middle School holds a PACER test at 3:30 p.m.  Anyone who wishes to compete can contact Ardito at

Ardito said he never knew at what number the PACER test stops. The standard minimum for a boy of 12 is 32. At 13- or 14 years, the score increases to 41. For girls ages 12 through 15, the cutoff is 23.

“We didn’t even know it went up to 247 -- and he was ready to do more,” he said.

While Mejia said he was happy, he didn’t believe it at first.

“One my friends told me the record was 250 and I said I was going to make it. That’s why I kept going,” he said.