U.S. volleyball player Haleigh Washington's friends and supporters celebrate at the Vintage Moose as the United States scores its final point against Brazil to win the Olympic gold medal on Sunday. This is the first Olympic gold medal for Washington, who grew up in Idaho Springs, and the U.S. women's volleyball program. (Corinne Westerman, CCM)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

Weeks ago, U.S. volleyball player Haleigh Washington’s friends sent her a Clear Creek High School Golddigger shirt to remind the Idaho Springs native “to dig for the gold.”

On Sunday afternoon in Tokyo, she did.

Washington had several crucial digs, serves, blocks and spikes in the final match against Brazil as the U.S. women’s volleyball team won its first Olympic gold medal.

“It’s everything we wanted it to be,” Washington said in a post-match interview with NBC. “The hard work that we put in, the sweat, the tears, the blood — it’s been worth it; and I’m so proud to have done it with this group of women. I’m so honored.”

About 5,700 miles away, her friends and supports were glued to the televisions in Idaho Springs’ Vintage Moose during the three sets against Brazil, and went into a frenzy of celebration when Washington and her teammates made history.

“It’s amazing,” Washington’s former coach Angie Thoennes said of the U.S. win. “ … I’m so proud of her. She’s worked so hard, and she’s earned everything.”

According to Thoennes, Washington and her family plan to be in Idaho Springs on Aug. 21 to celebrate her Olympic achievement. While plans are still in the works, Thoennes said a parade and/or block party is a possibility.

But the party really started Saturday night, local time, when more than 40 of Washington’s friends, former coaches and teammates, and other supporters gathered at the Vintage Moose for a watch party for the gold medal match.

Before the match started at 10:30 p.m., they described watching Washington play in the Olympics as crazy, surreal and awesome.

“She’s still the same Haleigh she was in high school, just amplified,” former teammate and county resident Taylor Broaddus said. “ … She’s the nicest, purest (person) on the team.”

Read more at clearcreekcourant.com.