$70K to boost Mesa

At 6-foot-71/2 and 280 pounds, Andrew Albers is by far the biggest athlete at Costa Mesa High.

Albers' biggest problem has been the school's weight room. The facility has not been able to keep up with the football player the past three years.

Frank Albers said his son has tried to work out in the dilapidated room on the second floor of the gym. Inside the room, Frank said non-matching mats piece the floor together, and some areas do not cover the old hardwood floor.

At best, Frank said there are three working stations for athletes to bench press. With 60 football players trying to lift during a lifting session, lines form as long as the ones for a ride at the Orange County Fair.

"We don't have adequate stuff," said Frank, the Costa Mesa football booster president. "The equipment is not adequate equipment to build a program and the kind of strength to compete at that [high] level."

Costa Mesa has received a much-needed lift. Costa Mesa United voted Wednesday to contribute $70,000 to help the school renovate its weight room, which each of the Mustangs' sports programs and the middle school physical education program will have access to next month.

Costa Mesa football coach Jeremy Osso is hopeful the weight room will be ready by Sept. 2, when the Mustangs kick off the season against Buena Park. Osso said the room is getting a complete makeover, with new black rubber flooring, rubber plates, bars, dumbbells and 10 all-in-one stations, allowing athletes to squat, bench and clean at one location.

The room is going to look a lot different for the first time in quite awhile.

"When I first got here in 2006 [as the head coach], the school was using the same equipment from 1992," Osso said. "We're finally going to start not only catching up to the other schools in the [Newport-Mesa Unified School District], but other schools in the county."

Improving Costa Mesa's weight room was a top priority for Costa Mesa United, said Katrina Foley, the not-for-profit organization's secretary.

Foley said the contribution by Costa Mesa United is the latest of more than $300,000 it has donated to schools and sports organizations in Costa Mesa in two years. Osso said the Mustangs desperately needed the funds.

Foley, a Costa Mesa councilwoman, agreed.

"It's about time," said Foley after Costa Mesa's crosstown rival, Estancia, renovated its outdoor football weight facility before last season with the help of Costa Mesa United.

Phil D'Agostino, Costa Mesa's new principal, was in charge at Estancia when Costa Mesa United assisted Estancia's effort. When D'Agostino arrived at Costa Mesa on July 1, he said the Mustangs athletic directors, Jim Kiefer and Patti Smith, along with the school's former principal, Edward Wong, spearheaded the weight room's renovation efforts.

"The weight room can take our athletic programs to a new level," D'Agostino said.

Frank is glad his son can finally work out at Costa Mesa, without being forced to visit the local 24-Hour Fitness to get a complete workout.

Frank said Andrew, a first-team All-Orange Coast League tackle last season as a junior, has every Pacific 10 Conference school recruiting him, except Stanford. Other college programs interested in Andrew are Notre Dame, Iowa, Utah and Utah State.

"If he would've had this [new weight room] a year ago or two years ago, he would be up to 40 pounds higher on all his lifts," Frank said of Andrew, who benches more than 300 pounds and cleans more than 250 pounds. "He won't need 24-Hour Fitness anymore."

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