By Dina Martin
Carrie Swidecki demonstrates her record-winning style for her second-grade class at Sandrini Elementary School in Bakersfield.
Carie Swidecki took up Dance Dance Revolution 10 years ago as a fun way to exercise. Since then, she’s lost 75 pounds, has introduced the video “exergame” to her second-graders at Sandrini Elementary School in Bakersfield, and this July broke the Guinness world record for playing DDR with a time of 15 hours, 17 minutes and 44 seconds.
That’s beating the previous record of 13 hours, 33 minutes and 56 seconds. You do the math.
Swidecki’s feat, which required dancing a sequence of steps displayed on a video screen in time to music, took place July 27 in Charleston, W.Va., in conjunction with a regional tournament and the inaugural Childhood Obesity Prevention Summit sponsored by Konami, the maker of the popular game.
The honor is the culmination of a long journey for Swidecki. As a student at UC Santa Barbara, she had subsisted on highfat, low-cost meals to stay within her budget. Within six years, she weighed 210 pounds.
Her “aha!” moment came the first time she tried DDR at a local arcade. Although she thought no one was watching her, a young boy walking by chided, “You suck.”
Swidecki recalls: “That’s when I told myself, ‘I’m going to do this!’”
Within two years, she started participating in local tournaments. After winning several national contests, Swidecki was challenged by Konami to attempt to break the world record.
For that, Swidecki started cross-training with power walking seven miles a day, running, and working out at the local arcade. Once school was out, she hired a running coach and did six workouts a day, six days a week. After training for six months, Swidecki was able to show the kids at the tournament just how it’s done. She also found time during the marathon to talk up the benefits of exergaming as a fun and healthy alternative to conventional forms of exercise.
When she returned to school, Swidecki was treated as a local hero. “The kids were all running up to me to tell me they saw me on TV.”
Of course, Swidecki’s students have themselves become enthusiasts for the video game. Many of them play it at home, and they are working out new moves at school as well, with a system Swidecki obtained for her classroom through a DonorsChoose grant.
Parents commend the Panama-Buena Vista Teachers Association member for being able to incorporate the “healthy” aspects of video gaming into the classroom.
Although a new school year is beginning, Swidecki isn’t about to hang up her dancing shoes. Now she’s looking to set a new record.
DonorsChoose.org is an online charity connecting donors to classrooms in need. Teachers post project funding requests on the website, and individual donors can search thousands of proposals, learn about classroom needs, and choose projects to fund.