Chris Spell is on a dual track toward two lofty goals.
Play football in the NFL.
Set the world record for the highest standing jump.
Spell will try out next weekend for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, a step that could bring him closer to his biggest goal.
He’s much closer to a Guinness World Record listing.
“I wanted to time the tryout with this box jump record, to kind of springboard my career,” said Spell, a former University at Buffalo football player who has spent the last several months training intensively for both.
Last weekend, the 23-year-old Westchester County native twice leaped more than 64 inches high, atop a collection of mats stacked in the Turf Room at Catalyst Fitness in Cheektowaga.
The world record is 63.6 inches, set in May 2016 by Evan Ungar in Oakville, Ont.
Spell arranged to have both of his jumps videotaped, and observed by three sworn witnesses: a member of the Air Force and two police officers. Clarence architect Herb Guenther measured and confirmed each of the heights.
That Guinness-sanctioned arrangement allowed him to save several thousand dollars it would have cost to bring in world record company representatives to handle those duties, said Spell, who works in a Buffalo youth soccer program.
He expects to hear from Guinness this week if either of his two successful jumps is official.
One measured 64.5 inches; the other, 64.625 inches — nearly 5 feet, 4 inches high.
A crowd gathered behind cones to watch both attempts, and erupted in cheers after Spell stuck the landing on each one.
“He's in here almost every day,” Catalyst branch manager Antoinette Todaro said. "He's in good shape."
It was the second stab the nearly 5-foot-10 Spell took at the record. Several weeks ago, Guinness officials told him the mats in an earlier attempt had too much give, and suggested he better stabilize them.
Spell began box jumping in earnest last August, when he discovered he could do it well.
“People were impressed by what I was doing in the gym,” he said, “and I wondered what the record was. I decided to look on Guinness World Record and it was 63.6 inches. I was getting 61 inches comfortably back then, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, that's pretty close. It would be really cool to say I’m the best in the world at something.’ So I started training.”
Cleaner eating — adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to a protein-rich diet — and six-day-a-week workouts have steeled him in his efforts. Spell focuses on legs twice a week, once doing squats, deadlifts and other strengthening exercises, the other drop-down jumps and box jumping drills.
Spell played football at Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., then at Hartwick College in Oneonta, before transferring to UB and walking onto the Division 1 football program. The wide receiver — who never caught a pass in a game but was a regular on special teams — played on scholarship his last semester before graduating in late 2017 with a bachelor’s in sociology.
During his school pro day in 2018, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds and broad jumped 10 feet, 10 inches.
Spell credited UB football coach Lance Leipold and strength and conditioning coach Ryan Cidzik for inspiring him to get into the physical condition he hopes will give him a shot at both of his goals.
“All of my training from University of Buffalo really helped even outside of the weight room,” he said.
If pro football doesn’t work out, he and his high school sweetheart, Anna Kelley, a hospitality major at SUNY Buffalo State, plan to return to Westchester County after she graduates next year. Spell, now a certified personal trainer, looks to teach other young athletes how to improve their physical performance.
“I'm super excited about this record,” he said, “but football is my true love, and that's where my training and my head and all my effort is going to go to after I officially get this.”
He also may look to set other world records. The most obvious? The running vertical jump, which now stands at 73 inches.