Published Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 5:45 p.m.
On the walls of Cimarron-Memorial High’s new weight room is plenty of documentation of the football program’s storied past.
The 3,500-square-foot weight room, which recently opened in the school’s former auto shop, is considered the first step in returning to program to its past successes — the Spartans were previously considered one of the Las Vegas Valley’s perennial powers, winning the 1998 and ‘99 state championship, sending two players to the NFL and numerous more to Division I college programs.
The facility, twice the size of most of the weight rooms in Las Vegas-area schools, will include about $100,000 in new equipment, giving Cimarron coaches the resources to better develop players.
When first-year Principal Lori Lawson-Sarabyn took over last spring as part of the turnaround project — schools with poor test scores and graduation rates tabbed for an overhaul — she was determined to upgrade struggling academic and athletic programs. Understanding the value a winning sports team has in boosting student morale, she asked football coach John Parcells what he needed to improve the team. Cimarron hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009 and won just three games in 2012.
“The first thing she said was, ‘You went 3-6 and missed the playoffs. What can I do to help?’ She hasn’t said no to anything we’ve asked for,” Parcells said.
Lawson-Sarabyn realized the school had significant funds in a student-generated account. It had accumulated over the years from ticket sales and concessions, among other efforts, she said.
The new equipment includes $25,000 worth of flooring and 15 weight-lifting racks, all of which have the Spartans logo. There are new weights and dumbbells, and the facility received a new coat of paint.
The old weight room, which was 1,700 square feet, had just four bench press racks.
On the roll-away garage doors, those previously used to bring in cars for the auto shop class, the Cimarron logo and initials are painted in school colors of maroon and gray. On another wall, there’s a list records and accomplishments of past seasons. An adjacent meeting room is home to the state championship banners.
“We are going to get this program back to where it was, where it belongs,” Parcells said. “We have a great tradition here. We want (the current players) to put their stamp on the wall. To have a winning record and make the playoffs, or to win a playoff game, isn’t our goal. We win championships.”
Making sure players are aware of the program’s history is important to Parcells, who, before becoming head coach in 2011, was a longtime assistant.
Also hanging is a tribute to coach Greg Spencer, who was the team’s first coach when the school opened in 1991. He led them to a 75-31 record, three zone titles and two state championships, and ironically, was the school’s auto shop teacher. He died in 2009.
“There were a lot of good memories in the old weight room we won’t forget,” said incoming senior linebacker John Nelson. “Now it’s our time to make some more memories for the school.”
Player participation numbers in Cimarron’s involuntary offseason program have spiked since the new room opened, bringing more than 90 players to each daily session. Last year, they averaged 65 players.
Forget about having more space to accommodate players, which they desperately needed. What’s most important is the players’ attitude. The upgrades have given them motivation and confidence in themselves.
That’s what makes the investment beneficial for Lawson-Sarabyn. Changing the culture — whether it’s on the athletic field or classroom — is paramount in improving test scores.
“Whatever we need to spend on the kids, we’ll spend on the kids,” Lawson-Sarabyn said. “There is no question I believe sports plays a huge role in (building) morale.”