Eryn Leonard, a Moffat County High School swimmer and cross-country and track runner, is shown last month at the Craig ABC Meet. Leonard and other area runners and swimmers have been closely following events in their sports at the Summer Olympics in London.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Eryn Leonard, a Moffat County High School swimmer and cross-country and track runner, is shown last month at the Craig ABC Meet. Leonard and other area runners and swimmers have been closely following events in their sports at the Summer Olympics in London.

Local athletes enjoy seeing their sports in the spotlight at London games

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Quotable

“Right now swimming is one of the best things to watch because we have so many great swimmers. It’s nice to see even swimming has big stars like football does.”

—Eryn Leonard, an incoming senior at Moffat County High School, about watching the Summer Olympics in London

Among other things, the Olympics present a unique picture of sports by showcasing sports and athletes who are not stars for most of the year.

While mainstream sports viewing in America typically centers on football, basketball, baseball and hockey, the Olympics doesn't feature any of them prominently.

Instead, lesser-followed sports like swimming, running and gymnastics are brought before the most viewers.

For local athletes and coaches in those sports, the Olympic coverage is appreciated.

Meghan Francone, Moffat County High School swimming and Craig Sea Sharks coach, said getting to follow swimming events featured in primetime for the first week of the Olympics is a treat.

“I enjoy it because I actually understand the sport,” Francone said. “I don’t get the ping-pong matches. Swimming I really understand and enjoy, and it’s fun to be able to talk to other athletes and coaches about the Olympics. I find it more exciting because it’s what I spend hours doing.”

Francone also said she thinks swimming has popularity in Craig because Craig has a history with good swimmers, like Blake Worsley and Kelsey Conci.

“We’ve got a pretty strong fan base here,” she said. “It helps when you have athletes who have been there. Because we have people who have done it, our athletes’ horizons have been broadened.

“A lot of our athletes are aware of the big picture and where their dreams can take them.”

Eryn Leonard, an incoming senior at Moffat County High School, swims and runs for the cross country and track teams. She enjoys watching those sports on TV.

“I’ve been watching that stuff when I get off work,” Leonard said. “It’s very nice. Right now swimming is one of the best things to watch because we have so many great swimmers. It’s nice to see even swimming has big stars like football does.

“I like watching the running events as well. It’s cool to see how fast those girls can go.”

In Wyoming, the Olympic fervor is no lighter. Mike Bates, the head coach for the football and track teams at Little Snake River Valley High School in Baggs, Wyo., follows the track events.

“I’ve been glued to my TV,” Bates said. “I love the sprints with Usain Bolt and was excited to see three Americans make the finals (in the men’s 100-meter). I think they deserve to be all over the TV. It’s their time, and they’ve worked hard for it.”

Bates said he has not limited his viewing to just the track and field events, though.

“Gymnastics has been my favorite thing to watch so far this year,” he said. “The Fab Five was amazing. The relays for both running and swimming are my other favorites.”

Volleyball is another sport that is prominent at the Olympics. Both indoor and beach volleyball get a large amount of coverage.

LSRV volleyball coach Brianna Braun takes advantage of any opportunity to watch volleyball.

“I love to watch volleyball on TV whenever it’s happening, even if it’s a college match,” she said. “In the Olympics, I love the beach volleyball. I watch that all the time.”

Braun said the difficulty level of beach volleyball is what attracts her to the game, despite it being a different variety from what she coaches.

“I have a lot of admiration for people who play beach volleyball,” she said. “If you’ve ever played beach volleyball, you know it’s tough. It takes a lot of physical strength and endurance to be able to play in the sand.

“The chemistry between two people can be really amazing to see when they’re great.”

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