Winning, on and off the scoreboard

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Covering the news at a community weekly has its ups and downs. It's an occupational hazard of this curious and unpredictable business — sometimes the news is good, sometimes it's in the middle, and sometimes it's just plain crummy. That's life.

But sometimes, life, and the news business, can be pretty sweet.

And there's little sweeter than covering a pair of a small-town high school championship parades, celebrating a total of three state titles, in two weeks.

Two weekends ago, the Arlington boys and girls soccer teams returned from Bellows Falls with Division 4 a pair of state championship trophies. Last weekend, it was the BBA football team's turn, and they capped off a one-loss season with a convincing win in the Division 2 title game in Rutland. All three teams received boisterous victory parades upon their return, thanks to their towns' volunteer firefighters, police and first responders — and more than a few car horns.

If you could bottle the energy and elation of young adults reaching a goal they'd been focused on and striving for since double sessions in August, before school had even opened, it could keep the lights on for weeks. Consider this: Less than two hours after they walked off the field as Division 2 football champions, the BBA football team sprinted up the Seminary Building stairwell to ring the bell, then sprinted back down to join their teammates in front of the building. You'd think they were being timed.

It was also nice to see the happiness and pride in the faces of the grown-ups in these student-athletes' lives. They didn't run sprints, but they've been running student-athletes back and forth to practices for months, traveling to away games, and putting in untold hours as academic advisors, sports psychologists and No. 1 fans.

To be clear, high school sports are not the only game in town, and our community should be equally proud of the academic, arts and community achievements of students at each and every school. We gladly feature those accomplishments on the pages of the Journal whenever we can. When everyone brings their own gifts and skills to the table, that's when a community exceeds the sum of its parts.

We also know that not everyone can win. The Long Trail girls' soccer team lost to Arlington 1-0 in the Division 4 semifinals, but they gave the Eagles one of their toughest tests of the season. Few teams can say they held the high-scoring Eagles to just one goal over the past two years.

Likewise, the Burr and Burton field hockey team showed great resilience in coming back from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime in their state final game two weeks ago in Burlington. They should be proud of the way they fought back and left everything they had to give on the field.

While we're talking about state championships, the past two weeks tell us there's as much to learn in losing as there is in victory.

Take the Arlington boys' soccer team, for example. After beating West Rutland 1-0 on an overtime "golden goal" in the state final, the Eagles showed tremendous class by extending the helping hand of sportsmanship to their opponents. There would be time to celebrate afterwards.

It's worth noting that the Eagles experienced that deflated feeling themselves during a tough three-game losing streak early in the season, including losses to a pair of much larger schools. It started with a 3-2 loss to Brattleboro in the John James tournament in Bennington. The next game, they lost when BBA scored the winning goal with 37 seconds left. The game after that was even worse: Green Mountain scored the winning goal with 25 seconds left.

Arlington didn't quit. But it seems they remembered what that disappointment felt like. It's not much of stretch to conclude that when the Eagles saw another team experience a similar fate, they responded with human empathy that comes from shared experience. And it was noticed; principal Sarah Merrill said she received numerous emails from appreciative West Rutland parents and faculty, extolling the Eagles' class.

We hear all the time about the excesses of youth sports — usually, how the adults are ruining things by attempting to vicariously relive their glory days. So it's good to recognize that the good stuff about high school sports still exists, and that it's still imparting lessons and values to young men and women that they can apply later in life.

With that in mind, congratulations to all on a great season — whether it ended quietly, or with a parade of fire trucks.


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