By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- 6:05 a.m. is a wholly untenable time to most high school students, when the only sounds they'd probably wish to hear are the echoes of their own muffled snores against their pillows.
But, Friday morning, a dedicated group of Amsterdam High School athletes were up and at it before the dawn had cracked, and the sounds that filled their ears were the thuds of heavy weights against the faded green carpet in the back corner of the Alpin Haus Fitness Center.
The group, a dozen strong Friday morning, works out under the watchful, encouraging eye of certified personal trainer Calvin Martin, often getting up at 5 a.m., heading to the gym for a 6:15 workout, hustling to get to school on time for a full day followed by practice in the afternoon and homework at night.
For those who take part, the early start is a badge of honor. As senior Kolbie Glionna, one of the founders of the group, watched his classmates and friends pull heavy deadlifts, he couldn't contain a smile.
"How many other teams do you think are doing this?" Glionna said.
Martin's given the group a nickname -- "BMOC: Best Men on Campus." And that doesn't just mean the campus at AHS. Each athlete has the intention of continuing their sports careers at the collegiate level, and Martin wants them ready for what they'll encounter when they reach that level.
"When they get to college, they're gonna have to go to practice before class. Their coach is gonna tell them they have to do film at 5 a.m., then go to class, then come back and practice," Martin said. "We're trying to get that name, 'Best Man on Campus,' to get them ready. Next year, these guys will be freshmen, but hopefully with this preparation, they'll be able to go in and be a leader right off the bat as freshmen. That's the goal here."
For that reason, not one of the athletes -- most of whom play multiple varsity sports, including nine members of the AHS varsity baseball team -- regrets losing out on a little extra shut-eye before school in the mornings.
"No one complains about getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning and coming here," Glionna said.
"It's nice being able to say that we're here doing something that we know tons of others athletes aren't doing," junior Marcus Pritchard added. "We're waking up at five in the morning, coming here, working out, going to school, having practice after school and then homework. It's a long day, but it's well worth it because every one of us has a dream of playing at the next level and a dream of being the best we can in high school."
And while the jokes fly just as much as the chalk dust, there's no mistake. From the time the group starts its warmup a little after 6 a.m. until Martin sends them back to the Alpin Haus locker room as 7:30 approaches, there's work to be done.
"We all enjoy it, we all enjoy pushing each other," senior Julian Gallup said. "Just the fact that we all enjoy it gets us through the day."
The camaraderie between the athletes and Martin fosters plenty of competition, too. A whiteboard of personal records sits next to some spare equipment to keep track of everything, ready to be changed as soon as an athlete lifts his personal best.
On this particular Friday morning, the biggest competition falls between Pritchard and junior Brian Cranker, each dueling for heavier and heavier deadlifts while their friends egg them on. When Cranker finally pulls a weight Pritchard can't manage, there's plenty of cheers -- and jeers.
That's the way they like it.
"That competition makes everyone better," said senior Andrew Rouse. "It's kind of like in the real world. Businesses compete with each other, and they make each other better. That's kind of what we're doing, making each other better."
By the time they get to school, there's already a solid layer of sweat worked up to lay the foundation for the rest of the day -- classwork, practice, homework, then collapse in a heap and get ready to do it all over again.
"People think waking up at 7:40 is hard, they don't realize that we come here at 5:45 and work, put our work in for all sports and everything we do," Isabel said.
The man who trains them -- looking after the athletes and balancing their hectic workout schedules with those of his other clients -- couldn't be prouder of the attitudes of his charges.
"I think the main thing is that they want to be better than yesterday," Martin said. "That's something we preach. There's a lot of athletes out here who work, and they don't want to be beaten. They take a lot of pride in their work."
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