YMCA hopes Zumba class sets record for the U.S.

WICHITA _ Stephanie Kerschen and two of her daughters usually spend part of their Saturday at Zumba class at the YMCA's South Branch, she said.

Today, though, hundreds of other people joined them in their weekly routine.

In an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest Zumba demonstration or class, 639 people turned out at the Farha Sport Center for the New Year's Day Zumbathon.

As participants arrived, officials split them into grids on the gym floor to keep track of everyone for the record. Kerschen and her daughters stood in a grid toward the back, wearing attendance numbers 349-351.

The three have been coming to Zumba class since the Greater Wichita YMCA started offering it at its various locations in September. One of Kerschen's daughters, Becky Hull, said she enjoys the class because it doesn't require a certain skill level

"I like it because everybody can do it ... I can do it, and I don't dance," she said with a laugh.

Fitness instructor Shalen Scheltgen said the appeal of Zumba, with its Latin-inspired music and dance moves, has made it a popular class at the YMCA. She said attendance at most of her Zumba classes exceeds 100 people.

"It's follow-the-leader, dance-based, and just kind of like a big party," Scheltgen said. "We don't take ourselves too seriously. We just shake it and have fun."

As people filled the gym and split into their sections, some stretched and chatted, while others tapped their toes, ready to dance. Ashley Price, who came with friends, was one of the ready ones, smiling and dancing around before the class started, though she had never tried Zumba before.

"It's going to be interesting," she said. "It's actually going to be different for me, but I think it's going to be pretty fantastic."

Price said the class would help her kick off her resolution for 2011 to lose weight and get in shape. Rachel Stuhlsatz, health and fitness director for the YMCA, said the event's timing also worked well for many people's goals.

"With New Year's resolutions, a lot of people are either getting started again or continuing their next year on the right foot, so we thought this would be a great opportunity," she said.

As the class started, Scheltgen stood on a stage at the front of the gym, wearing a pink tank top with the word Zumba on it and her black capris. People who couldn't see could watch the screens set up beside the stage.

"Are we ready?" she asked, as participants shouted back in reply. When the score board started counting down from 33 minutes — the length of the class — music and clapping filled the gym.

Though the event did not reach its goal of 1,111 to match today's date, Stuhlsatz said the attendance made it the largest U.S. Zumba class. Event officials must submit the paperwork first, however, before it becomes official.

Despite the crowd and the record, though, it was just another Saturday for Kerschen, who said she comes to the class as something fun to do with her daughters.

"I like just getting to spend time with them," she said. "It's something they enjoy."

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