Early Wednesday morning, the Carmel football team was put through a ridiculous test of physical and mental endurance by a handful of Marines, who administered the Combat Fitness Test. In 10 years of attending camps, it was the most difficult challenge I’ve seen by a wide margin. It was brutal.
Here’s Frank Becerra’s video on the event, followed by my story:
CARMEL — Less than halfway through their slog, most Carmel football players were dragging. Their bodies hung like old coats from a hanger, stressed to extremes by every obstacle.
That all of the 30-plus students survived and completed the challenges proved that they were capable. The real test came during each lift, crawl and sprint as current and prospective Marines buzzed around them and barked motivation inches from their faces.
“It was mental. Physically you felt it, but you could probably push through,” Carmel senior Chris Vozzella said. “You just needed that mental toughness.”
The core of Carmel’s varsity had its toughness tested Wednesday morning, just five days shy of the first day of football practice. Performax Fitness in Mahopac arranged Marines from Peekskill’s recruiting station in Peekskill to conduct a Combat Fitness Test (CFT) meant to gauge Carmel’s progress. The fitness center began training Carmel’s players in June with a football-specific program; Wednesday not only tested the effectiveness of that training and the conditioning of each athlete, it did so under obvious mental adversity.
“With our kids, with our schedule that we play, it’s trying to build a mental toughness to them,” Carmel football coach Todd Cayea said. “We live in an instant gratification society now. We’ve lost that work ethic. You have to put a lot into something to get dividends. This program’s been great to teach our kids commitment, teamwork and hard work. Hopefully, it will pay off.”
Among the Marines conducting the CFT for Performax Fitness was 2013 Carmel graduate Matt Mohalley. The 19-year-old’s unmistakable voice carried across the turf as he chased athletes with instructions.
Mohalley, who is scheduled to leave for basic training on Dec. 2, said he had looked forward to the opportunity. He knew some of the players from school, but also knew what impact the training had on him.
“When I first joined, I was worse than all these kids,” Mohalley said. “I came back and I was like, ‘Wow. This really did a lot for me.’”
Although some of them struggled, almost all of the Carmel players completed each rigorous challenge — everything from pressing ammo cans, to flipping truck tires to dragging and lifting teammates who were under instruction to not provide assistance.
“It was tough,” junior John Ronagno said. “It’s a lot harder than what we usually do. We usually just train for football. These guys train to save people’s lives.”
Guy Massi, the general manager of Performax Fitness, circled the scene, videotaping snapshots of Carmel’s progress. The evidence was clear: Their training had, indeed, paid dividends.
“The progress for us is very rewarding,” Massi said. “They’ve come from the gestational stage to almost full maturation at this point. The fact that they’re able to do this and get through this is pretty amazing.”