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PRICE — A national contest to decide which high school has the best mascot is bringing together two communities with a shared heritage.

Students, faculty and boosters of the Carbon High Dinos have been voting feverishly for the past three weeks in an effort to win the USA TODAY High School Sports Most Unique Mascot Contest.

"I know I've had stretches where I've voted for six to eight hours at a time," Carbon High senior George Deeter III said. "We've made jokes about me having to get carpal tunnel surgery after this."

The Dinos eked out a win in the state round, downing their nearest competitor — the Davis Darts — for the top spot by a mere 5,094 online votes. Then they tallied 1.7 million votes to beat nine teams from the western U.S. in the regional round, topping the second-place Oregon Episcopal Aardvarks by almost 176,000 votes.

As of Monday, though, the Dinos found themselves well behind the top vote-getter so far in the national round. The Centralia (Ill.) Orphans led the voting by almost 6.1 million votes.

The Dinos aren't discouraged and they're not giving up. Members of the Class of '79 stopped by the school Monday night to lend their support and try to put their alma mater on top for good. 

"Old Dinos, who haven't thought anything about being Dinos, all over the country are voting," said Carbon High librarian Carol Chiara. 

"I mean, I called all my kids and other parents have called all their kids who live far away, and they're all voting," she said.

While the contest is uniting the Carbon High community, it's also built a bond between the Dinos and the Orphans.

Centralia is a mining community just like Price and has seen its share of tragedy. Sixty-six years ago Monday, 111 miners were killed in an explosion and collapse at Centralia Coal Co. Mine No. 5. that remains one of the country's worst mining disasters.

That's why the death Friday of Emery County miner Elam Jones in a collapse at the Rhino Mine resonated with the Orphans and their supporters.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the Dinos and the family of the miner that was lost. Orphan Nation is behind you," Ted Meisenheimer wrote on the USA TODAY contest's Facebook page.

Jones' father-in-law is a custodian at Carbon High, and Principal Bruce Bean said his counterpart from Centralia High called to express his school's condolences. The Orphans are also making a financial donation to a memorial account for Jones, according to the school.

"It's pretty cool to see that they care and it's not just about competition," Carbon High senior Nick Rhoades III said.

But this is still a competition. The winning school will receive $2,000. Students and staff at Carbon High, though, say that's not why they're working so hard.

"It's not about the money," Rhoades said. "It's about coming together and winning, just school spirit."

Chiara agreed.

"It's built school spirit with a lot of students who didn't have school spirit before and that's what's good about it," she said.

The USA Today contest ends Wednesday at 1 p.m. MDT.

E-mail: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik