John F. Russell: The title obsession
February 24, 2008
Steamboat Springs — So what’s the big deal about winning a state title?
It doesn’t matter if it’s fall, winter or spring – the dream of landing a state title drives high school athletes in Routt County and across the state. Some teams will deny it, others will openly talk about it and others have already won it. A state title is seen as the mark of excellence for every high school team and athlete. It’s seen as the difference between being good on a given day and being remembered long after the season has come to an end.
In most cases, teams in our part of the state take a reserved approach to the pursuit of a title and downplay the importance of the title in the big picture. But most would admit they would love to bring home a title for their school.
I’ve been covering high school sports in Routt County for the past 18 years, and in that time, I’ve covered plenty of talented teams, but only a few actually have reached the goal of winning a title.
When it finally happens, it’s something that’s truly special.
I was lucky enough to be here when Soroco wrestlers captured the top prize in 1995 at McNichols Arena in Denver and carried their coach off the floor. I also witnessed the Steamboat Springs girls soccer team win the 3A title back in 1998, which resulted in a sea of tears, hugs and celebrations. There have been a number of individual champions in wrestling and tennis, but in most cases, winning a title seems bigger when it’s shared with teammates.
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The moments after a team wins a title are always filled with excitement, happiness and the joy that comes from knowing it is the best. But the moment is also fleeting. The memories of those titles still reminds me of the best that high school sports has to offer. I’m sure the moment lives on in the hearts of the athletes who have brought them home, years after they’ve stopped playing the game.
But winning a state title is rare.
Talented players, solid coaching and fortunate timing have defined Steamboat’s championship teams. Those teams were lucky enough to have everything come together at the right time and in the right place.
And just when I feel like state titles are overrated, I witness another team making a run at glory and, like most of us, I am swept up in the moment. Many of Steamboat’s greatest high school stars, including players like Tyson Johnson in basketball and Katie Carter in volleyball, never earned a state title. Both went on to college careers, but what memories could have been made if their high school teams had won?
In the big picture, high school sports offer student-athletes a lot more than titles. We should never judge the success of a team based simply on championships. High school teams provide a place were athletes can push their talents to new levels, learn life lessons and grow their love of sports.
Maybe that’s why winning a state title is such a big deal.