Tyler Olson lifts weights in the AHS weight room during the Packer strength and conditioning camp Wednesday. ASH is still attempting to raise funds to move to the weight room to a better location. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com
Tyler Olson lifts weights in the AHS weight room during the Packer strength and conditioning camp Wednesday. AHS is still attempting to raise funds to move to the weight room to a better location. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

Packer Athletic Improvement Project still looking for funds

Published 6:35pm Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Packer Athletic Improvement Project has given Austin High School students some great equipment to work with, but there’s still some work to do.

The school is still looking to raise $150,000 to fund the project and most of the cost includes building a wall so the weight room can be moved in the mezzanine above Packer Gym. The funds will also cover the baseball and softball batting cages, which will be placed Hastings Gym and they will cover the cost of moving the wrestling room to the Annex Room at AHS. The Packer dance team has already moved its practices to the IJ Holton School.

Austin head football coach Brett Vesel compared the current weight room to a dungeon that has very little air flow. The room reaches 83 degrees consistently during the winter months because it is right next to the boilers.

However, the new equipment that has been installed in the weight room has added room for a lot more Packer athletes to work out. The new location will provided even more room.

“It’s night and day from where we started. It’s such a huge difference when kids have equipment that works,” Vesel said. “The equipment is awesome and we have enough for a lot of kids to work out at once.”

The Packer Athletic Improvement Project has come around at the right time as AHS students are using the facilities more often than they have in years past. Austin senior football player Logan Hotek recalls there just being 10 athletes lifting weights after school a few years ago and he said that number was closer to 50 or 60 students lifting after school this year.

Hotek said he is motivated to keep lifting because he remembers the struggles the Austin football team has gone through in years past and he doesn’t want that to happen again.

“I never want to see this program go back to that and that’s what motivates us all,” he said. “[The new equipment] has meant so much. We now have the ability to have a lot of people in there at the same time. You’re not always waiting for someone to get done. It’s a lot more organized and it’s easier to get from one lift to another.”

Austin football player Jayden Cantu said a lot of Packer athletes have been motivated to lift weights since the new equipment was put in.

“Last season we saw we can actually win in football and it motivates everyone, not just in football. In every sport that’s kind of down right now it motivates them to get better,” he said.

While the weight room has gotten more popular, so has the Packer summer strength and conditioning camp. The summer program has become a great way for athletes in all sports to get in and put in some work.

“We’ve got soccer players, football players, tennis, volleyball, hockey and we’ve got some golfers down here. It’s everybody. If nothing else, they’re getting in great shape,” Vesel said.

Vesel thinks the commitment to working out can grow even more when the weight room is moved to the mezzanine.

“It’ll be brighter and it’ll give us a whole new atmosphere up there,” he said.

Austin baseball head coach Chris Gogolewski isn’t just happy that the new equipment is giving his players a great opportunity to get stronger. He’s glad that his team will finally be able to host it’s practices in the same room as the batting cages. Until now, baseball and softball indoor spring practices are split into two groups, with one part of the team in Hastings Gym and the rest of the squad hitting in the mezzanine.

“We can keep the entire group of kids together working on the same thing. With a 70 foot cage, you can see almost every kid hitting at the exact same time,” Gogolewski said. “I think the more visual it is, the more attractive it would be. Up in the mezzanine, the cages are kind of stuck in the corner and it’s a real tight fit. I’m excited for the change. We’ve talked to community and there is great support from the bottom up.”

Austin head wrestling coach Jer Osgood said the change will be good for his program as well. He’s excited for the team to have a room to call its own.

“The wrestling program is hopeful that with this move we will now have our own space. We currently share our room with many programs,” Osgood said. “It is difficult sharing facilities with multiple entities and still provide an opportunity to build a program. I am hopeful the community will help support this transition.”

If anyone is interested in donating funds to the project, they can contact AHS Activities Director Lisa Quednow-Bickler at 507-460-1826 or lisa.quednow@austin.k12.mn.us.


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