John Vandelinder: MCHS state champions share common ground |

John Vandelinder: MCHS state champions share common ground

John Vandelinder

John Vandelinder

I think I’m onto something.

As the sports reporter for the Craig Daily Press the past year and a half, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness three Moffat County High School state champions up close and personal.

Kelsey Conci in the 50-yard freestyle, Erin Urbanoski in long jump and Alicia Nelson in cross country.

These three young ladies caught my attention – as well as the rest of the state’s – when they accomplished something most athletes dream about but can’t quite make happen.

A handful of high school athletes each year earn the right to be called state champ, and Craig has produced three in the past nine months.

Let’s be honest, folks – MCHS isn’t exactly an uber-athlete factory with big-name alumni catching headlines in the professional ranks.

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I’ve been wondering what these three girls possess that separated them from the opposition in their time of glory.

So, I called them up and picked their brains.

The common denominator between the three pretty much confirmed my suspicions.

It’s because they’re from Craig.

I know it sounds weird, but hear me out.

I’ve lived in many cities in North America, and Craig is by far the most “blue collar” – hardest working – town I’ve ever lived in.

Every where I go, I see paint-splattered pants, faces filled with soot and enough flannel jackets to create a blanket big enough to keep Moffat County warm all winter.

The residents of this town hold many physically demanding jobs, including dads Paul Nelson (Tri State power plant), Guy Urbanoski (Tri State power plant) and Terry Conci (Twenty Mile mine).

Each of the three have worked in hard labor jobs most – if not all – of their lives, and I think that is a major reason for their daughters’ success.

The willingness to put in the necessary hard work is in their little girls’ blood.

Not to say an accountant, lawyer or doctor’s kid can’t leap the final hurdle to greatness, or that the mothers had nothing to do with the wins, but it makes me think back to when I was a kid and would play the “my-dad-can-beat-up-your-dad” game with my buddies.

Kelsey, Erin and Alicia each echoed the same response when asked what they thought the biggest factor was in winning on their respective sport’s biggest stage on the high school level.

“I worked really hard,” Kelsey said. “I didn’t miss a single optional practice my entire swimming career.”

“I think it was definitely the training and the hard work I put in,” Erin said. “I train all year long. I’m training now.”

The first thing out of Alicia’s mouth after winning her state title?

“All the hard work I put in finally paid off,” she said.

Sure, coaching is a major factor, as is talent, wisdom and confidence.

But, I think – now believe – that what has put them over the top is something they’ve been around their entire lives.

Work ethic.

They’ve earned the hardware to prove it.