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April 4, 2014
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Ford: Hometown heroes inspire big dreams


Nevada County couldn’t have a better representative on a global scale than Evan Strong.

That was the overwhelming sentiment Tuesday night at the Miner’s Foundry when the area congregated to give the 2014 Paralympic snowboard cross gold medalist a hero’s welcome home.

He’s humble, kind, well-spoken, grounded and happy to give back. All things you want a hometown hero to be. And, all of which was indicated by his words to the hundreds of captivated listeners and the fact that all money raised at his celebration went to benefit Nevada County’s FREED Center for Independent Living (www.freed.org) and Adaptive Action Sports (http://adacs.org) based in Summit County, Colo.

“I’m so stoked to be able to come home and share this story and experience and have you people live this experience through me,” he said to the crowd of adoring fans, including many children who are at a stage where they are picking out role models other than their parents.

And while Strong isn’t a native son, he is treated as if he were, embraced by our community and praised for all he does — as he should be.

He is the newest in a long line of hometown heroes that allow Nevada Countians to live vicariously through them and provide fodder for parents to encourage their children to dream big.

The likes of Josh Roenicke, Spencer Havner, Alexander Rossi, Andrew Jackson, Taylor Dever, Courtney and Stephanie Ceo and countless others have raised the ceiling for all Nevada County athletes.

Roenicke, now with the Washington Nationals Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs, has carved out a nice career as a reliever in the majors and gives hope to all Nevada County Little Leaguers that it is possible to go from the diamonds of Condon Park and Pioneer Park to the diamond in a major league stadium.

Whether it’s watching Havner when he caught touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers, Taylor Dever when he would drive a defensive end into the ground for Notre Dame, Courtney Ceo going 3-for-4 with a home run, four RBIs and a stolen base for the Oregon Ducks softball team, or Strong carving up a slushy course in Russia on his way to the first ever gold medal in para-snowboard cross, they allow us to believe.

Believe in ourselves, our children, our neighbors and the quality of life we strive to hard for in Nevada County.

So what is it that makes this small, heavily-wooded county tucked up in the foothills of Northern California produce so many talented athletes. Is it the water? Is it coaching? Smart breeding?

Maybe a little of those things, but I believe it’s because we believe. We believe the chance is there.

Talking with Tanner Vallejo a few years ago, when he was just a junior at NU, he was determined that he would play in the NFL. Vallejo, now at Boise State, has taken all the right steps, stayed focused, worked hard and is off to a good start toward his goal. Maybe he will make the NFL, maybe he won’t. But, he has set his goals high and is taking all the necessary steps to reach his goal.

Before Strong left for Russia he said for him to get gold in Russia, he would have to have all his ducks in a row and all those ducks would have to be wearing gold medals. Well, they were and he did.

The lesson is that big dreams are great and all young athletes should have them, but they will never become reality without the hard work that comes first.

Now, not all big dreams will come true, but often the journey to achieve them is as rewarding as the sought- after goal itself.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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The Union Updated Apr 5, 2014 12:22AM Published Apr 4, 2014 11:43PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.