MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — High schools are community hubs in many small towns.
“Especially in Pierz,” David Rocheleau, Pierz Healy High School activities director, said. “Our community is so supportive of our athletics and our school system in general. And I think that’s why we are very successful.”READ MORE: Talking Points: Rep. Ilhan Omar Discusses The Path To Passing The Build Back Better Plan
And within that school is the gymnasium; a place where some of our fondest memories are hatched.
“I don’t second change them as academics are first, athletics are second. They’re all the same,” Superintendent George Weber said. “They’re all opportunities for us to touch a child’s life.”
Weber was a key player in building the Pierz Healy Memorial Athletic Center, or MAC, which was voted Best of Minnesota.
It opened just 10 years ago, thanks to the entire community.
“We like to think that employers know if you come from Pierz, you’re going to get a good employee,” Weber said. “We like to think that we use that with our students and staff. We will never be outworked. We might not be the biggest and the strongest and the fastest, but we’re going to outwork you. That’s what we try to live on.”
The gym is packed with special features, like stage lighting to spotlight players and the dance team. There is also a custom, hand-painted floor that — at the time — had never been seen in a high school gym.
“They taped off every two feet and put a separate little bucket, like an ice cream pale of tinted paint, and he came back and brushed behind it so you can’t even tell as it fades from black to red all the way around it,” Weber said.
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While students create memories on the floor, the school memorializes their achievements on the walls.
“We try to make banners that signify all the times we’ve gone to state, and every time we’ve won conference. We didn’t want one for every year, but we wanted one for every sport,” Weber said.
The MAC is used just about all day, every day. And for events that can pack in 1,100 spectators.
“Even the other teams that come here love to come here and love to be introduced. They love jumping on our floor. They say, ‘I can slam at Pierz and can’t at home!'” he said.
What a stage for sports moments, like a recent half-court buzzer beater by Josh Templin. Then there are events like concerts, graduations and those that touch the community.
“Another big moment I remember is one of our student athletes got in a car accident, traumatic brain injury. And we came back, we had a ‘Matt Athman Night.’ Everybody wore their shirts, the gym was packed,” Rocheleau said. “It was a cool moment in the gym.”
The teachers and staff at Pierz Healy High believe that learning goes beyond the classroom. And what better place than the best gym in Minnesota to give each student a special high school experience.
“All of it’s the same, whether it’s math, or whether it’s basketball, whether it’s track or whether it’s English,” Weber said. “Every one of them are an opportunity for us to touch a child, for that child to have a memory. I mean that’s what high school should be really. It should be a beautiful memory. It’s going to set you up for your career, but it’s also a great memory.”
The Pierz wrestling team is heading to state this weekend, girls and boys basketball are starting sections next week, the robotics team is going to regions in Duluth and their spring play — “Once Upon A Mattress” — is coming up soon.MORE NEWS: Family Mourns 'Loving' And 'Gentle' St. Paul Man After Fatal Hit-And-Run
Your other favorite high school gyms are at DeLaSalle in Minneapolis and Hopkins.