GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to compete in high school sports, let alone, move on to the college level. This week, local athletes put pen to paper and committed to their colleges and universities of choice. We caught up with three such athletes at Friday’s Phil Wertman Track Meet.

JUSTIN BLANTON: The Central football and track star is staying in Grand Junction. He says playing in front of friends and family was a big part of his decision to go to Colorado Mesa (the full ride in football and track didn’t hurt either). When asked about playing for a coach who is from the region he said it’s great. “Coach Kochevar already knows a bunch of the kids just because he’s been around here for so long… I believe he’s going to be a real good leader for us.”

KIEN COGLEY: The Fruita distance runner is off to Alamosa to run for Adams State. He said on his visit he connected to the coaches and athletes on the team. He says for him was hard work and persistence was what carried him to the next level. “I didn’t make state my first few years, but then I’ve made state every year since my junior year of cross country…. There’s always going to be adversity, just never ever give up. Always count on yourself and bet on yourself and never doubt yourself then it’s going to pay off eventually.”

NATHAN SCHARNHORST: The Delta QB and track stud is going 80 miles east to Gunnison to play football and run track for the mountaineers. He suffered a season-ending foot injury during the football calendar. He says, while he wouldn’t hope anyone has to go through what he did, he sees how it helped him become a team leader from the sideline. Something he says already has him preparing to help Western defend their RMAC Championship. “Seeing those plays and keys from the sideline, it’s a game changer. Because my entire life I was a two-way player and was never on the sideline until I got hurt. To see the game from a different perspective has helped me a lot. I’ve been talking to some of the other incoming freshman, and I’m like.. We’ve got to go back to back.”

These are just a few of the stand out athletes from the Western Slope making the jump to the collegiate level. We’ll have more in the coming weeks!