VINELAND — Student athletes are not the only ones muscling their way to fitness at Vineland High School.

A new weight room at Vineland High School South is attracting students with few, if any, links to high school athletics.

The goal of the school’s physical education staff is to get those students, and students whose high school athletic careers are ending, to make fitness a lifelong endeavor.

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“That’s been part of every physical education program I’ve been associated with,” Vineland High School Athletic Director Don Robbins said.

The new weight room — with 30 pieces of weight-training equipment and wall-mounted flat-screen televisions that outline workout routines — has drawn an estimated 10,000 student visits in its first five weeks. A number of those students are not athletes.

Senior Nick English sings in the school choir and performs in school plays, and visits to a gym were not a priority. He said the new weight room is giving him a different view on exercise, and the regular visits to the facility are becoming addictive.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said English, adding he will probably continue working out after high school.

Another senior, Eriq Bluitt, played football for the Fighting Clan. Sports may not be in his future, as he said he is joining the U.S. Army.

“This is helping me get ready for boot camp,” he said.

All of that is making Vineland High School South Principal John McCann happy.

“Our main focus has been to make certain that this (facility) addresses every student at Vineland High School,” he said. “Our whole goal was not athletic teams, not specific teams, but the entire student body. No doubt it’s the nicest weight room in South Jersey and we’re very proud of it.”

The school’s weight room had been moved from its former location into three classrooms to make for an expanded special education program, Robbins said. That provided a less-than-ideal situation for weight-training purposes, and closed out three classrooms to various educational purposes, he said.

The new facility, which totals about 4,300 square feet and cost about $497,000, solves those problems, he said.

“It’s beautiful to stand in this room and see this project finally come to fruition,” Superintendent of Schools Mary Gruccio said. “This … gives us the opportunity to open three more classroom spaces, which is always very valuable for us here in Vineland as we struggled with out growing class sizes.”

The weight room also gives student athletes the chance to help out other students who are not that familiar with weight training.

Vianka Toro, a senior and a member of the cross-country team, said her teammates watch over those students.

“We try to show them the right way to do things,” she said.

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