Walter Panas Alum is Jumping to Stratospheric New Heights

Christopher Spell

He has a thriving personal training business and a shiny new Guinness World Record. If it sounds like Christopher Spell is on top of the world, well, he would simply tell you that he is “just on the top of the box.”

That box would be the 67-inch-high surface that he jumped onto and rose to a standing position, all on his own power and without the use of his hands. That feat, accomplished at a gym in Shrub Oak on Feb. 7, earned him the Guinness World Record for highest standing jump.

This was the second time that Spell, a 2013 Walter Panas High School graduate, set the record. He first earned the record in 2019 with a 64.3-inch jump, but it was snatched away within weeks with a 65-inch jump, leaving Spell with “a chip on my shoulder.” Winning it back was sweet relief.

“I felt like a huge weight was off my shoulders,” Spell, 25, of Cortlandt Manor, said in a recent interview. “I felt like I got a little bit of a piece of me back.”

Christopher Spell after jumping 67 inches

“I’m definitely joyful that I have it,” Spell said. “It’s something that’s in that back pocket. I always will feel that joy until someone takes it from me, but even just the act of continuing to push the boundaries of what humans can do, that’s what it’s all about.”

At Walter Panas, Spell played football his junior and senior years as a wide receiver and went on to play Division III at Hartwick College for two years, and Division 1 at the University at Buffalo for two years. He graduated from Buffalo in 2017 with a degree in sociology. 

He became a certified personal trainer and launched his in-home personal training business, Against Odds Athletics, last year as gyms were closed during the pandemic.

After college, the 5-foot-9-inch Spell stayed in Buffalo, employed as a youth soccer coach and personal trainer as he worked toward his dream of being drafted into the NFL. One day in 2019 he was at the gym performing box jumps and a small crowd gathered to watch his giant 5-foot leaps.

“One person shouted out, ‘That has to be a Guinness World Record. That’s amazing,’” Spell recalled, adding that he looked up the record and realized his jumps were not too far off.

“That person kind of sparked an interest,” he said. “It was, wait a minute. How cool would it be to say I’m the best in the world at something. Right then and there, I kept my sights on it. OK, I'm going to train to get this Guinness World Record.”

Back in Cortlandt Manor, he did just that in July 2019, after months of training and sacrifice.

He credits his years at Walter Panas with helping him reach these extraordinary heights. In addition to being a captain on the football team, he also ran track, competing in the long jump, the high jump, the triple jump and the 4x100 relay. In his senior year, he set the school record for the long jump at 22 feet, 4 inches.

His high school experience, he says, “gave me the opportunity to grow into a man.” It taught him about hard work, having patience and realizing that you need to work for what you want. He is grateful to his track coach, Ryan Johnson, for teaching him about the fundamentals of jumping.

“I had a great high school experience,” Spell said, adding that he was the kid who loved football. “I guess that still shows to this day, that athletic side of me is still going strong. My high school experience is exactly what it needed to be to be where I am now.”

For now, he is focused on building his business and large social media following with the hope of motivating people to realize their dreams. “My goal is to inspire people to get past that obstacle and achieve what they might not have thought was possible,” he said.

After all, jumping to new heights can be an apt metaphor for life.

“When you have this big obstacle that you have to somehow get on top of, and you keep on trying and then you bust up shins and you start bleeding, and then you get frustrated but then you re-evaluate it, you keep on trying, you bleed again, you keep on trying,” he said. “Eventually, you get on top and you can achieve your goals and you achieve greatness by just pushing through and continuing to believe in the process.”