Twin sisters, Kelsey, left, and Caitlin Conci, burned their way through the Moffat County High School swimming record books on their way to competing in the NCAA. Earning scholarships to different colleges forced the twins to be apart for the first time since birth, but they are taking full advantage of it. Each has set new personal best times in the water and has contributed to her respective program - all while maintaining excellence in the classroom - in their first four months as college athletes.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Twin sisters, Kelsey, left, and Caitlin Conci, burned their way through the Moffat County High School swimming record books on their way to competing in the NCAA. Earning scholarships to different colleges forced the twins to be apart for the first time since birth, but they are taking full advantage of it. Each has set new personal best times in the water and has contributed to her respective program - all while maintaining excellence in the classroom - in their first four months as college athletes.

Local twins making a splash at separate colleges

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Fifteen minutes.

Until last summer, a quarter of an hour was all that separated twin sisters Caitlin and Kelsey Conci.

Kelsey was born first on Feb. 17, 1990 - nearly 19 years ago - and Caitlin was right behind.

Since then, the sisters have been nearly inseparable.

Especially in the pool.

Something started in a Florida hotel pool by 6-year-old Caitlin has turned into a sibling rivalry the duo's mother said she never expected.

"Caitlin beat a bunch of older boys in a swimming race when we were on vacation," Kim Conci said. "Kelsey thought it looked like fun, and they've been at it ever since."

They grew up as Seas Sharks - competing as part of Craig's youth swimming club - making waves across the state as adolescents, putting the swimming world on notice that the Conci's were coming.

Together, they led the Moffat County High School girls swimming program for four years.

They hold just about every Bulldogs swimming record to date, made four trips to the state finals and capped their careers off with a gold and silver medal in their last hoorah on the high school level.

Together, they pushed one another in the pool, in their home and in the classroom.

So much so, they both earned college scholarships in the sport they loved.

But that's where the similarities between these twin sisters comes to an end.

"I just kind of wanted to get out of my sister's shadow," Caitlin said.

She did.

Caitlin now is swimming as a Fighting Sioux at the University of North Dakota, while Kelsey took her skills in the pool to the University of Wyoming.

"This is the longest we've ever been apart," Caitlin said. "It's kind of nice, though, because we are separate people."

Kelsey agrees.

"It's a lot different without her," Kelsey said of her sister. "It's not too bad, though. We talk on the phone a lot and text each other a lot."

As little girls, the duo started competing against one another in the pool before their water wings even came off.

They would pretend they were in the Olympics and race until mom came and plucked them out of the water.

But they were always on the same team.

Until now.

When UND visited UW for a competition Oct. 24 and 25 in Laramie, Wyo., the family rivalry was tossed out the window in favor of a classic oldie: Cowboys and Indians.

The Wyoming Cowboys vs. the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

Caitlin and Kelsey were matched up in the 400-yard medley relay event.

They swam side-by-side, in lanes four and five, like they have so many times before.

"It was kind of weird" to compete against her, Caitlin said. "We were in the same heat, and she was in the lane next to me."

"We've been swimming next to each other our whole lives," Kelsey said. "It was cool, but weird. She had a different colored swim cap and suit on than me."

Kelsey's team won the race, but both said the tougher competition on the college level is what they were after when they chose to separate nearly a year ago.

"It's definitely way tougher than when I was in high school," Caitlin said. "We work way harder now than we ever did. I get up at 5 a.m. three days a week and practice in the afternoon the other days. I'm always on the move."

And as far as moving in the water goes, Caitlin's doing pretty well, too. She has set several new personal records, including eclipsing the 55-second mark in her new specialty, the 100-yard butterfly.

"I had never broken a minute until I got to college," she said. "I'm way faster than I've ever been. That's why I came here: to get better."

Kelsey is making just as big of an impact as a Cowboy.

Her time of 58.13 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke is tops on the team this year and nearly a second faster than her silver-medal winning high school performance just 10 months ago.

"Am I faster?" Kelsey repeated. "Oh, yeah, definitely. But we practice 10 times a week. It's a lot of work."

Although swimming got them to their respective schools, it's their grades that has kept them there.

Caitlin is hovering above a 3.0 grade point average at UND - she hasn't quite decided upon a major yet, but she is considering something in health sciences - and Kelsey currently holds a 3.4 GPA on her way to becoming a mechanical engineer.

"It seems like all I do is swim, study and eat." Caitlin said with a laugh. "It's very time-consuming being a college girl, I guess."

They spend so much time swimming, they even had to cut their Christmas break with family and friends short.

Caitlin - who answered questions from her cell phone while on a flight layover in Atlanta - and the Fighting Sioux are competing in a Christmas training camp beginning today in Sarasota, Fla.

Kelsey leaves Wednesday for the Cowboys' Christmas training camp in Irvine, Calif.

"I'm going to guess this trip is going to be more about work than vacation," Caitlin said. "I'm sure we'll still have fun, though."

Kelsey knows what she's in for when she returns to the water.

"It's going to be a lot of work," she said. "We are going to be doing a lot of different stuff."

What started as a hobby together has turned into work on opposite sides of the country.

But although they are no longer together, they always will share the same passion: swimming.

"Swimming is what got me here," Caitlin said.

"I know when we get into the pool, even though they are different pools, we are thinking about each other," Kelsey said. "She is always going to be by my side, pushing me."

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