Winners, no matter what the scoreboard says

Saturday brought news of wins and losses to our part of the world.

For the Arlington Memorial High School girls' soccer team, it was the elation of completing an undefeated dream season with a 3-0 win in the state title game. It's the first state title for the Eagles since 2009, and an emotional victory for the team and the town, too, as their remarkable season was dedicated to former coach John Werner. No wonder the town celebrated with fireworks.

In Cambridge, the football team repeated as Class D sectional champions in football, beating Greenwich for a trip to the regionals — and a chance to maybe repeat as New York state champions. The win also gave coach Doug Luke his 200th career victory.

In Dorset and Manchester, the storybook ending didn't go according to plan.

At Long Trail, the boys' soccer team, playing in its first-ever state final, held Rivendell to one goal and gave a valiant effort, but could not find the back of the net themselves and lost 1-0.

And in Manchester, there was double disappointment — first for the girls soccer team, who were beaten 1-0 in the Division I final by Champlain Valley, and then for the football team, which was upset by Bellows Falls in the Division II semifinals.

In sports, and sometimes in life, sometimes you achieve your goals ... and sometimes you fall tantalizingly short. That's just how it works and it's not always fair.

Certainly any team that makes it all the way to a state final has nothing to hang its head about. In a championship game, against top-flight competition, it's rare that everything comes easily. Winning and losing at that rarefied level is often as much a measure of luck as it is skill — a shot that hits the post, a sprained ankle, an opposing goalkeeper having the game of his or her life. And when the clock reaches 0:00, someone has to win and someone has to lose.

So there's no shame in coming up short — whether you're a tournament team or a squad that just didn't have the luck or quite enough talent this season.

That's not a "participation trophy" sentiment that everyone who laced up cleats or sneakers deserves recognition. In fact, far from it.

Rather, it's recognition that there's tremendous value in falling short of a goal you worked for, perhaps just as much as hoisting the trophy. In an age when youth sports are taken way too seriously and the grown-ups keep finding ways to spoil all the fun for the kids, there's still value in the dedication, teamwork, goal-setting and time management that girls and boys learn in playing a sport.

And by the way, that's as true for the cheer team, the marching band and the student managers as it is for the star quarterback and starting goalkeeper.

As for what these teams accomplished? Here's a quick rundown:

An undefeated season is rare at any level, and the Arlington girls were the best team on the field in every game they played. That's special.

Cambridge has emerged as one of the best small-school football programs in all of New York — and that's saying something, considering how many schools play football in the Empire State.

At Long Trail, the soccer teams' seasons were a source of excitement and school pride all season long. Years from now, the boys' Marble Valley League trophy — the first-ever for the program — will be what people remember and celebrate.

At BBA, they'll look back on the football team losing only three games in three seasons, and the girls' soccer team reaching three consecutive Division I finals.

But the real legacy will be what these student-athletes learned, how their parents and coaches mentored them through the tough times, and how they applied what they learned to succeed in life, paid it forward and gave back.

They don't hang banners on gym walls for those accomplishments. Maybe they should.


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