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Originally published August 24, 2011 at 8:41 PM | Page modified August 24, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Ingraham High sports get face-lift from ESPN

The school's gym, weight room and uniforms got a long-overdue face-lift that was unveiled Wednesday afternoon.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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quotes That's a very good thing to happen to Ingraham. That basketball gym was probably the... Read more
quotes "Ingraham is one of four high schools across the country that ESPN Rise Up is... Read more
quotes That's a very good thing to happen to Ingraham. That basketball gym was probably the... Read more

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A motto is painted on the windows above the outer doors that lead to the Ingraham High School gym: "It's a matter of pride."

When Greg Lewis was a standout running back for the Rams — he graduated in 1987 — that motto meant something. After the Rams won the big-school state football championship in 1988, it meant a little more.

"That's how we felt about Ingraham," said Lewis, a former University of Washington standout who's in the Huskies' Hall of Fame.

In recent years, though, that sense of pride had been harder to find. Ingraham's last title in any sport was that football championship, and the Rams' 51-year-old gym had never been renovated.

All that changed over the past month and a half with ESPN's Rise Up giving the Seattle school's gym, weight room and uniforms a long-overdue face-lift that was unveiled Wednesday.

"It's a godsend," said Gene "Colonel" O'Hara, one of the school's co-head football coaches.

Traci Huffer, in her 16th year as Ingraham athletic director, added, "The good guys finally got to finish first."

Students, teachers, coaches, alumni and members of the community were treated to a tour of the new facilities, which was filmed for an hourlong show that will air at 4 p.m. Sept. 20 on ESPN.

"I'm just really grateful," said Malik Barnes, a senior and standout athlete at the school. "All the people here, we all see it as an opportunity to do something better. It didn't have to happen, but it did."

ESPN Rise Up officials couldn't provide an estimate of the cost of the improvements.

The show's co-hosts, former NFL linebacker Chris Spielman and engineer Deanne Bell, addressed a boisterous crowd at the afternoon event in the Ingraham auditorium.

Spielman said he sensed something unique about the school from the moment he stepped on campus — a feeling of community, spirit and diversity.

"No longer will the Rams be overlooked," he told the group. "It's your time.

"I grew up around high-school athletics," Spielman said after the unveiling. "My dad was a coach for over 40 years, and a teacher. For me to see kids that really didn't have a lot and for them now to have an opportunity and take ownership of it, that's humbling."

After a few words from Spielman, Bell and others, the audience filed out of the auditorium and lined up outside the gym while a camera crew set up inside. Once the doors opened, students couldn't get into their renovated facility fast enough.

The gym floor has been refinished and a giant Ram was painted on both sets of bleachers, charging toward the wall and kicking up a big cloud of gray dust. New uniforms were also rolled out.

Ingraham is one of four high schools across the country that ESPN Rise Up is renovating. Each team — boys and girls — at every school is being outfitted with new uniforms.

"It's a good opportunity for the student-athlete here at Ingraham to bring in a source of pride to kind of build on," Lewis said. "These guys probably haven't had a lot to be proud of the last several years. This gives them that spark."

As the TV crew filmed a few final interviews, Barnes shot jumpers on one end of the basketball court. A few volleyballs were batted across the gym. Ingraham's athletes couldn't wait to get started.

Then Spielman spent some time with the football team and left them with a question: "Why not make history while you can?"

The facilities are no longer an excuse. It is now up to the athletes to embrace the motto that meant so much to the Rams the last time they won a state title.

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com

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