Weight room nearing completion at Strathmore

Just a few months ago the weight room at Strathmore High School was a hodgepodge of hand-me-down, outdated equipment. The weights were rusted and stuffing was coming out of benches.

Fast-forward four months and the Spartans boast customized equipment, 14 power racks, six leg presses, dozens of free weights and medicine balls, custom flooring, five televisions and more in a newly remodeled weight room that is close to completion.

“It's really nice, it's all new and stuff,” SHS running back, Carlos Moreno, said after a weightlifting class Monday morning. “The weights are new, they're nice. Really nice. I just miss the clanking from the old prison weights.”

That's right, along with receiving equipment from schools who were updating their own weight rooms, the Spartans worked out with weights from Corcoran State Prison. Now they have brand new padded weights that don't make much of a sound but are enough in quantity for the entire class.

“In the old weight room we'd have rusty bars, the weights wouldn't be even and we wouldn't get enough time (to) lift as much as we could,” SHS defensive end, Adam Ceballos, said. “There wasn't enough (stations) and all the weights weren't up to date like they are now.”

Strathmore's upgraded weight room is laid out to maximize space and now a whole class of 70 students can work out and do more reps instead of reducing everyone's workout with only half the class able to use five benches, four squat racks and a couple other equipment.

“It makes everyone come out and we encourage each other, push each other,” Ceballos said. “And we push each other to the limits with our new weight room.”

SHS football head coach, Jeromy Blackwell, said the school is also investing in a program that allows students to keep track of their workouts electronically.

Changes to the weight room were spearheaded by the fundraising efforts of SHS Booster Club members, Curtis and John Alkire, who heard Blackwell's idea for a new weight room, and set to work.

“These kids deserved this,” Curtis Alkire said. “Why shouldn't they have this? … These kids shouldn't have to worry about stuff like this.”

Despite their small size and limited facilities, Strathmore has one of the most decorated football programs in the area. Their six Central Section championships are the only football Valley championships in Porterville Unified School District. The Spartans went to three state championship games from 2016-18 but their 2017 CIF State Division 6-AA championship is the only football state title in Tulare County. They are also the county's most-winningest program over the last decade.

Through it all, Strathmore has done more with less, but always with the community's support.

The SHS Booster Club raised over $100,000 to fund the new weight room and received donations from numerous individuals and companies to turn their old weight room into a top-notch facility.

“With Strathmore, it's like a close-knit, community-oriented type of school, and we love that about Strathmore,” Curtis said. “I'm really excited about this. This has been an uplifting movement for us, just to see how the kids are excited. Even some of the staff here are like, 'This is just unbelievable.' To me, I'm so proud of what we've done so far that this, to me, is like a mini junior college gym.”

One of the statement pieces of the weight room is a large custom-made Spartan helmet made from recycled parts and the hood of a 1953 Chevrolet. It was designed and constructed by the Big Fresno Fair, of which John Alkire is the CEO of, and donated to Blackwell and PUSD.

Underneath the helmet are engraved plaques noting donors and others who have helped with the new weight room including PUSD's Dr. Nate Nelson (Superintendent) , Dr. Brad Rohrbach (Assistant Superintendent, Business Services) and Owen Fish (Director of Facilities, Construction and Operations); as well as Strathmore principal Diane Rankin and athletic director Ryan Born.

“We're very proud of this and thankful for the district's help,” Alkire said. “Without the district this wouldn't be possible.”

For years the Spartans have taken pride in themselves and their work regardless of the appearance of their facilities and equipment. They've embraced a blue-collar work ethic that won't change just because everything is now shiny and new.

“You gotta be careful what you wish for because now results are going to be expected,” Blackwell said. “But I tell you what, now they come in, they're fired up and excited to lift weights. … Sixty-one kids from six kids in 2001, I feel like we're headed in the right direction. Kids are preparing and got 168 days until football season so we have plenty of time to get the job done.”

There are still some small, mostly cosmetic and electrical updates being done to the weight room but once everything is done the SHS Booster Club will hold an unveiling of the finished product.

For the Spartans, the weight room is just one step in improving athletics at Strathmore and Harmony Magnet Academy. Donations and ideas are welcomed by the SHS Booster Club and can be directed to Curtis Alkire. He can be reached at 559-544-4400.

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