WATERLOO — An underutilized gym on Columbus High School’s lower level has been transformed into a heavily used weight-lifting and exercise room.

The Strength & Conditioning Center, tucked into the back of the school at the end of a winding hallway, was filled with activity one afternoon this week. Students worked out on the 10 combination weight-lifting racks or used hand weights. Nick Grundmeyer, Columbus’ strength and conditioning coordinator, led 10th- through 12th-grade boys’ basketball players in agility training, using some of the open area that surrounds the racks.

Much of the floor has a rubber coating. A new batting cage can be set up at one end of the room where a strip of artificial turf lines the floor. A stack of box-like equipment can be set up for plyometrics training, which is used to improve an athlete’s vertical jump.

In one corner, a glass door leads directly outside. A window above it stretches to the room’s high ceiling, filling the space with natural light.

“It’s a whole new feeling. It’s a different environment,” said freshman Caleb Vesely. “The old space is like three times as small.”

Five lifting racks are available down the hall in the former weight room, where there’s very little space for other activities. This is “so much better,” said freshman Cannon Butler.

“If we had 20 students working out at the same time, it was extremely cramped,” said Tom Ulses, Cedar Valley Catholic Schools’ sixth- through 12th-grades activities director. With the new center, as many as “45 to 50 students” can be in the room at the same time.

The center opened early this month following a fall fundraising campaign that allowed for renovations and the equipment purchases.

“In the span of about four weeks, we raised approximately $105,000,” said Ulses. That included two lead gifts and a total of 70 donors. The effort started in early August and wrapped up by Labor Day.

“I would say God has blessed us with people who really care about the school, who are willing to put in the time and money so the kids can have this,” said Grundmeyer. “We’re just very fortunate.”

The new space was “originally built in the mid-70s as our secondary gymnasium,” said Ulses. A stage at one end of the room, now outfitted with some of the exercise equipment, once served speech and drama students. “They tried to meet the different needs of the time,” he noted.

Tight quarters in the old weight room stood in contrast to the multipurpose room, whose use had been limited in recent years. The school had identified that facility “as an area of impact that we wanted to improve,” according to Ulses.

Grundmeyer said the larger new space and better equipment provides far greater versatility for the athletes. “This facility is just unmatched for most schools our size in the area,” he said. “The kids are way more enthused about lifting.”

“I like it a lot more,” said freshman Kristopher Luke, as he worked out with the basketball team. “It makes me want to come in here more.”

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Waterloo Schools / HCC Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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