Eric Trent, Lynden Tribune
However, about $50,000 is needed for completion
LYNDEN — Giant framed photos of past Lynden High School state championship teams and athletes line the walls of the Lions weight room. And now the Lion students and athletes are turning into giants themselves with their new state-of-the-art weight room remodel that was finished a week before school began on Aug. 30.
The whole process started a year ago when teacher and football coach Blake VanDalen was motivated by seeing Nooksack Valley High School’s new weight room.
Lynden’s old weight room was created in 1993. The building itself was fine, but the newest equipment was 15 years old and the oldest dated back to the 1960s.
So last winter after the 2017 football season ended, VanDalen, along with students from the football and volleyball teams, asked the Lynden School Board if they could ask the community for support to remodel.
Lineman Cooper Brown, running back Trevin Melendez and a couple of volleyball players went to the school library and lifted weights while VanDalen made his pitch to the school board.
“They said yes,” VanDalen said, “which they didn’t have to.”
From March 15 into June, VanDalen met with 60-70 companies, families and organizations in Lynden and was able to raise $150,000.
“This is what our community is all about,” VanDalen said. “We have a very proud, supportive community. I was very humbled at how receptive people were and how willing they were to help out.”
The equipment was ordered in June and a new floor was installed in preparation for the equipment, which was delivered Aug. 22.
The total project cost is $200,000, so there is still bit to go. Lynden High recently partnered with Papa Murphy’s for a day on which all pizza proceeds went toward funding the weight room.
Kids themselves have been a big help too. They put together a lift-a-thon in the spring that raised $8,000.
VanDalen partnered with Sorinex, an exercise company out of South Carolina. One of its employees, Kevin Kamphouse, was a student and player for VanDalen when he coached and taught at Nooksack Valley for a year.
Sorinex recently installed a new training facility for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Other clients are the Boston Red Sox and the University of Oregon.
Lynden’s new facility is world-class in its own way, VanDalen says.
“This is all about creating a great environment for the kids,” VanDalen said. “I can tell you right now, based on the equipment we have, this is the nicest high school weight room in the state of Washington. I brought in some guest speakers who said they’ve been to Olympic training facilities that weren’t as nice as ours.”
So what are the differences between the old weight room and the new one?
“Everything,” said Cooper Brown, lineman for the football team. “There’s so many possibilities, it’s just crazy. Everyone has their own station and all the weights they need. Everything is state-of-the-art. It’s awesome.”
In the old weight room, weights had chunks missing out of them from decades of wear and tear, the old cable machines were frayed and would catch, and lifters would get scratched on the old flat benches from rough edges around the screw inserts.
Now all the benches can incline and recline. Clips can be moved and attached to any other station, and students can bench squat, incline and deadlift all from the same station.
“It’s a rare opportunity for high school students to have such great equipment at our disposal to improve as athletes,” Brown said. “We’re blessed.”
Some of the names of first and biggest donors are written at the top of each station, one per station. The first station one sees while walking into the weight room says “Setback Comeback in Memory of Coach Kramme.” VanDalen says one of the persons who donated requested to have that written on the station — in tribute to the Hall of Fame LHS football coach who died of cancer in April 2017 — rather than their own name.
“There’s a hundred amazing stories of people who were just so generous,” VanDalen said.
Before, there was a favorite bench and incline that everyone wanted to use, while the rest were in disrepair, said Payton Scott, co-captain and lineman for the football team.
“There was one you always wanted to use,” Scott said. “The other two weren’t good. Now they’re all the same level. We don’t have to worry about standing in line.”