BETA

National bagging champ keeps priorities straight

Practice.

Keep the Sabbath Day holy.

Two principles that Micah Crapo believes in, but which came into conflict as he prepared to compete for the distinction of being the nation's best grocery bagger.

During a late review of the rule book for the competition, Micah, a 17-year-old senior at Riverton (Utah) High School, discovered a change from rules he followed to win store, district and state titles. That was the Saturday night before the National Grocers Association contest started in Dallas on Tuesday, Jan. 30. Instead of balancing the weight of three bags, he had to put all crushable items (like bread and potato chips) in one bag and balance the weight of the other two. "I tried doing it the other way the last half hour of practice that night, but I was totalling messing up," he said during a Church News interview. "The weight was off and I couldn't go as fast."

Monday was a travel day, so Sunday was the only time left to work out the kinks.

"I was tempted," Micah said. His parents, Lee and Connie Crapo, counseled him but left the final decision up to him. He chose not to practice on Sunday.

Micah, a priest in the Bluffdale 2nd Ward, Bluffdale Utah Stake, didn't expect to be blessed with victory for making the right decision. He said he had once played on a dominating youth baseball team that won its way to the championship game which was to be played on a Sunday. His parents counseled him but left the final decision up to him. He chose not to play and didn't even go to the game. He later learned that a critical mistake cost his team the championship, a mistake at the position where his experience likely would have made a difference. He said he felt bad the team lost but not for maintaining his standards.

He doesn't doubt that he was blessed in the Dallas competition, saying that he was able to stay calm and focused as he faced challenges from other state champion baggers who had much more than his one-year's grocery store experience. His mother helped by praying with him and by helping him pack groceries, grocery bags and a bag holder in their luggage for the trip so Micah could practice in the hotel after they arrived Monday night. "We couldn't take eggs," his mother said, "so we taped two cans of hair spray together to take the place of an egg carton."

Micah said one of the highlights of the experience was making friends with other state champions, some of whom included wives and children in their cheering sections. Best of all, he added, the friendships survived the actual competition when he breezed past them all to become the nation's "Best Bagger" of 2001 and win the $2,000 prize.

A key to the victory was his use of the allotted time, he said. While many rushed and finished well ahead of the clock, he relaxed and used all of the 35 seconds allowed and was able to be more careful. His practice, though limited, paid off.

Sister Crapo said Micah has been a source of pride for her and her husband. His love for competing in sports was dealt a blow by a serious wrestling injury when he was in eighth grade. But he kept a good attitude and has been a hard worker, she said. During a time of financial struggle in the family, when two of his older brothers were on missions, Micah took it upon himself to completely support himself from the money earned bagging groceries and often would shop at the end of a shift to buy food for the family.

He puts away 40 percent of his income to help him reach his next big goal, serving a mission a little more than a year from now.

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