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FITNESS from the First Family



Published: Wed, June 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Cardinal Mooney obtained equipment used in theWhite House by President Clinton and his staff.

By JOHN BASSETTI

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- Since when was exercise equipment politically correct?

Cardinal Mooney High students using the second-hand Cybex-brand apparatus in their weight-room don't know or don't care, but they'd probably veto a bill to return it to the White House.

Bill? White House?

Yes, fitness equipment formerly used in the White House by Bill Clinton and staff is now in the majority in the school's refurbished weight-room.

The 10 pieces make up a complete circuit for a total body workout, said Muscle Connection owner John Straub, the man who brokered the deal for Mooney.

"We got a call from one of our vendors, saying they knew the Mahoning Valley was connected with democrats," said Straub, who works with pre-owned equipment regularly. "This was an exceptional deal, both in the condition of it and pricing. Mooney's alumni pull together. If they need something, somebody comes up to the plate."

The bill: The cost of roughly $40,000 was paid by Dave Handel, a Boardman businessman and Mooney alumnus, and Mike Morley. They are partners in real estate.

"Cybex has outfitted the White House with exercise equipment for years," said Handel. "Before the incoming administration arrives, the existing equipment is offered to dealers as a package. They knew Mike and I were in the market for the school. It was close to new. I don't think Bill [President Clinton] was down there working out every day. So we purchased it and it came in."

That was in October, before the election. Because of the vote-count mess and follow-up appeals, the Clinton White House equipment remained in limbo.

"It was supposed to come out when the newly elected president picks out what equipment he wants from Cybex," Handel said. "Our equipment was held up because there wasn't an order from the new president because they didn't knew who he was. It had to go in storage. That was strange."

Another hang-up: Despite the delay, the purchase was good timing. Then another hang-up surfaced.

Initially, the equipment was to be placed in a new weight-room in a building near the school. But transfer of ownership of the 40,000 square-foot Kefurt Army Reserve facility to Mooney was slow, and acquisition may not happen until fall.

That's when a group of parents of football players, primarily, took action and transformed the weight-room that's located near athletic director Don Bucci's office.

"We were ready to put it in storage," said Handel. "Then these parents said they wanted the kids to have it now."

When the Cybex arrived, however, its appearance wasn't what was envisioned.

"I expected navy blue with the presidential seal," Handel said. "But it was a white frame with [an] awful teal vinyl padding and it looked terrible. So Muscle Connection donated the new upholstery, which is in school colors."

Other machines: In addition to the pieces from the White House, nearly a half-dozen other machines were purchased by the school.

"It's just been updated in a huge way," said football coach P.J. Fecko. "Cybex is top-of-the-line, so we wouldn't have been able to get the quantity and such a high-quality machine. The nice thing is it has made our weight-room accessible to every sport, male or female. It has such good bio-mechanics and it's easy to operate. It's a great opportunity for other sports."

Comparing today's treasure to what was available when Handel played football before graduating in 1974, he said: "Our equipment consisted of a bench and squat rack, and we thought we died and went to heaven."

He was impressed with the effort of the parents -- mostly fathers of freshmen and sophomores -- to spruce up the weightroom.

"Now it's nice and it's benefiting the entire student body, not just the football team. I was definitely impressed from what it was four months ago. My part was easy, I just wrote a check."

bassetti@vindy.com




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