Student-athletes at a Pottawatomie County high school will enhance their competitive edge, thanks to a donation from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation FireLake Wellness Center.

As staff prepared to replace the weight equipment at FireLake this fall, they wondered what to do with the soon-to-be surplus items. Coby Lehman, certified personal trainer, said he had an idea who might benefit the most.

Lehman graduated from a small-sized school in the county. From his experience as a student, he knew that expensive items such as weights are often in short supply but necessary for student-athletes.

“I reached out to a couple of small schools because I knew they had a few items but not that much,” he said.

Lehman connected with Wanette Public Schools in southern Pottawatomie County.

Tyler Thetford, the Tigers’ boys basketball coach and athletics director, learned of the equipment’s availability and was surprised by the Tribe’s donation.

“I can’t explain the feeling,” he said. “Shock. Beyond anything we could have imagined.”

FireLake Wellness Center gifted several items, including a leg press, bench press, shoulder pulldown and cable crossover machines. Wanette staff helped disassemble the equipment at CPN’s gym and transported it to the school on Nov. 27.

“Before, we had to use our equipment one person at a time, and other kids were waiting to take their turn. Now the entire team can be in there working out, and nobody will be waiting,” Thetford said.

“With this donation, we 100 percent feel like we’ve hit the lottery. The administration is excited, the school board is excited,” he said.

Thetford estimated that if the school district had purchased the equipment, the cost likely would have exceeded $60,000.

“We never could have raised enough money for all this equipment,” he said. “We might have been able to raise enough for a small machine or weights.”

The school has never had a dedicated weight room or permanent weight lifting program for its student-athletes, he added. In the past, some coaches brought their personal workout equipment to the school.

Wanette High School had an empty classroom that was being used for storage. Thetford said school staff moved everything out and re-assembled the equipment there.

“It’s something we’ve been lacking forever,” he said. “Two or three kids have walked by and peeked in during the assembly and had looks of awe and amazement on their faces.”

He explained the benefits for all of Wanette’s teams. For cross-country, using the leg machines will make them more explosive off the line. It will also help athletes in track and field, basketball and softball.

“Our kids have a lot of heart and they work hard. They will put in all their effort, and this will help them reach even higher for their goals,” Thetford said.

“We are speechless. The impact is priceless, completely priceless.”

During the 2020-21 school year, Wanette Public Schools had 115 students enrolled, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Find the district online at