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Out for blood in the pool

MCHS swimmer Kelsey Conci's competitive streak earns her a Junior Olympics victory

John Keegan

— You never can tell at first glance whether someone has a mean streak.

Take Moffat County High School senior-to-be swimmer Kelsey Conci. She is as polite, soft-spoken and even-keeled as you will find.

“Kelsey is very polite and casual,” said Marin Campbell, Kelsey’s high school and summer coach. “She’s very pleasant and down to earth. Very confident.

“But when you put her into competition – especially in the pool – she’s always out for blood.”

Swimming is about as nonviolent a sport as there is. For Kelsey, though, the desire to succeed trumps all else. And she has been known to throw the occasional underwater jab, when needed.

“We fight at practice, but it’s pretty fun,” said Caitlin Conci, Kelsey’s twin sister, who also swims at Moffat. “We just punch each other a few times, and it’s over. (Campbell) has to tell us to stop a lot.”

This underwater mean streak has been a main ingredient to Kelsey’s success.

Saturday, Kelsey accomplished what she called her most gratifying feat yet, by winning the 100-meter backstroke at the Junior Olympics in Grand Junction. The meet is thought of as the summer state tournament, Campbell said.

“Before the finals race, that was like the calmest I’ve ever been before a race,” Kelsey said. “I do better when I feel like I have less pressure and more confidence.”

The win was a huge step forward for Kelsey, who hopes to swim in college. In past seasons, she has typically swam better in freestyle competition. In order to close the gap, Kelsey has woken up at 5 a.m. each weekday for a one-hour car ride to Steamboat Springs. There, the Conci twins practice under Campbell’s tutelage five days a week, and then travel to different meets on weekends.

A family-dynamic is evident in talking to the twins and their coach.

Campbell “knows when I get mad and think something is completely ridiculous,” Kelsey said.

Campbell plays the role of the disciplinarian.

“From time to time, we have to have a little reality check,” she said. “We talk about what is required to be a state champion, infrequently, I’d add. But it is the price of excellence.”

The tactics are paying dividends for the twins. Kelsey holds seven school-records, while Caitlin has had success in relay races, often teaming with Kelsey. Campbell believes the girls will swim in college, and said she has been in touch with several coaches.

Kelsey hopes to major in engineering. For now, she’ll have one more year to break her own high school records in the free style, backstroke and relays.


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