You could see it in her eyes. Paige Palzinski is in her happy place in the weight room, and now that Hermiston High School has renovated its facility from the ground up, the Hermiston junior is in seventh heaven.
“I love lifting weights,” Palzinski said. “It makes my day. The people I work out with, I feel I can accomplish anything.”
Hermiston track coach Emilee Strot was the driving force behind getting the weight room redone. At first, she was hoping to get the floors fixed for safety reasons, and maybe a few new benches.
“I brought Larry (Usher, athletic director) and Tom (Spoo, principal) in here, and our original idea was to replace the floor,” Strot said. “I showed them the benches that were breaking down and a few other things.”
It wasn’t long before Strot got the OK to put together a proposal for an entirely new weight room in the same space.
“Tom and Larry were big supporters of this,” Strot said. “They saw the potential, and what it could do for our student athletes and classes. This would not have happened without their support.”
Strot and Hermiston football coach David Faaeteete worked together with Columbia Fitness in Kennewick to design a layout and choose the equipment.
“We had the same goal in mind,” Strot said “We went from five platforms and seven squat racks, to 14 stations that you can do almost everything on. We doubled the amount of equipment in here that we had before. We will be able to have a lot more kids in here at one time, with everyone doing something.”
Worth the wait
Once Strot had her proposal together, it didn’t take long to get the approval from the school district.
“It had been 17 years since the weight room had updates,” said Tricia Mooney, the superintendent of the Hermiston School District. “It was a safety issue. I have been through there; they did a great job. It is much appreciated by our kids.”
The renovation cost right about $98,000, according to Mooney. The money came from the general fund.
“Over the course of the past year, there has been some belt tightening,” Mooney said. “Some positions were not filled. We got a good deal and it worked out well.”
Strot waited until she got the green light from the school district before telling her students and athletes.
“I didn’t want to jinx anything,” Strot said. “This is every coach’s dream. We want it to last a long time. We have some rules. I’m trying to create a culture in here.”
The revamped weight room has a new rubberized surface on the floor, there is a rack of free weights on the far end of the room, and there are 14 purple and black multi-use stations in the middle of the room. There also are plenty of bars and plates to go around. There are even 15-pound bars (the regular ones are 45 pounds) for those just starting out.
“It’s important that they learn proper form,” Strot said. “Technique and safety are important.”
Senior Jazlyn Romero, a point guard on the basketball team, and a state champion in the javelin, was impressed by the new facility.
“It’s one of the best high school weight rooms in the state,” she said. “Coach Strot has brought a new culture to female athletics. We like it. We can have fun and get our business done.”
Garrett Walchli, who plays football and runs track, has put in some time in the new room.
“Strot and Faaeteete said if you want to bet the best, you have to have the best,” the senior said. “In the old room, we didn’t have as many plates and you would have to wait. Now, we can really kick it into high gear.”
The future is now
The Hermiston football team has two hours worth of time in the room in the morning during the summer, followed by the girls.
There were about 50 girls Tuesday morning taking part in Strot’s summer weight program.
“Strot started the program about five years ago, and three or so girls would show up,” Palzinski said. “Now, the girls (lifting) classes have grown from one to two. She has instilled the belief that girls can be strong and beautiful. You need to build physical and mental strength.”