Axel Gonzalez, Pershing County alum, compete in a 2018 Liftathon in the PCHS weight room.
Axel Gonzalez, Pershing County alum, compete in a 2018 Liftathon in the PCHS weight room.
The lights are out. Treadmills and barbells gather dust. 

For years the PCHS weight room has been a hub of activity, but it’s quiet for now.

“The kids are anxiously awaiting its reopening,” said Mike Brooks, Pershing’s athletic director, football and wrestling coach. “As of now, there’s no date set for that — hopefully sooner rather than later.”

From fall through spring, PCHS offers a gamut of sports. They change with the seasons. Inside the portable building behind the high school, the action goes on year-round, at least before the pandemic.

In 2017, Brook’s predecessor Dave McLean credited the lifting program for Pershing’s success on the football field.

“Getting kids to buy into the off-season weight program was huge for us,” he said. “When you have kids working out all year round, not only are they becoming better athletes and getting stronger, but there’s an investment into the program.”

Mike Brooks carried the tradition forward. Last summer, the weight room hummed with the sounds of student-athletes pushing themselves.

“We had a great turnout,” said Brooks as the days grew shorter, and the new school year approached with its hidden and unwelcome baggage. 

“We had 24 kids achieve their lifting requirement – 25 days of lifting – a great number considering our smaller team size.”

Three Pershing County alum (Class of 2018) spoke highly of the weight program. “I love the whole scene of lifting, being around other competitors and seeing their drive,” said Joaquin Wanner. He lifted four to seven days per week. 

“When it comes to football, lifting helps with a variety of things,” added Dylan Hultenschmidt. “It helps you explode off the line to get your block. You increase your speed and movement, and can run the ball faster and harder.”

“No other school in our division works out like we do,” said  Axel Gonzalez. “What I like best about lifting is that you see results- maybe not right away, but the more you lift, the more you change.”

Gonzalez started lifting in the eighth-grade after Coach Lance Condie introduced him to the sport.

When asked about the fall sports seasons, Brooks paused to reflect.

“I’m hopeful we’ll have a season, but that isn’t in our hands,” he said. The NIAA follows NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) guidelines. Meanwhile, the coach prepares for a scenario with more unknowns than an introductory algebra class.

The NFHS ranks sports according to their likelihood of spreading respiratory droplets. 

Lower risk sports include some (but not all) track and field events like running, shot put and discus. Sideline cheer also falls in the low-risk category. 

Volleyball, baseball and softball are considered moderate-risk and may reopen next, along with pole vaulting, the long jump and high jump.

“Football and wrestling are the highest risk,” says Brooks.

When sports reopen, they will look different. Brooks expects and is preparing for dramatic changes.

“I think we’ll have to accommodate social distancing in the locker rooms and on bus trips,” he says. “I’ve ordered water bottles for all the sports teams since we won’t be sharing fountains or anything like that.”

“In the meantime, as difficult as it is, the kids can find some way to stay active and productive to stay in some sort of sports shape,” he said. Brooks estimates a 50 percent participation-rate in the home workout he provided to the football players and wrestlers.