Lesson for the ’Boro: The real winners at Spring Fling aren’t always holding the trophy
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spring Fling is always bittersweet.
At best it’s that feeling like the day after Christmas as a child when there are shiny new presents but the excitement and anticipation that’s been building since the Thanksgiving turkey was cleared has gone away. At worst, it’s that really horrible blind date that you managed to escape early but leaves you with that let down feeling and going home at 8 p.m. from what you had hoped would be a great night.
Only one team in each state tournament goes home a champion and everyone else, be it runner up or first eliminated has the disappointment to not reaching the dream of the state title that naturally comes once a team packs its collective bags for the ’Boro. It’s the same for the individual championships. Be it the eight athletes vying for a state singles tennis title or the 16 who entered the AAA prelims at track, only one goes home with gold.
This year was no different.
I really wanted to write the Dalton Ownby saga of going from first time picking up a shot put competitively to winning the state title four months later. The story of an athlete from a school that doesn’t even have a track winning a track & field title sort of writes itself and let’s face it the big guy tends to his own harshest critic. You like to see athletes like that succeed.
There were others and more than usual this year.
Seeing Payton Robinette get to the championship singles match was rewarding itself. The junior is that “yes sire” and “no sir” type but she handled losing in the title match with more grace and self confidence than anyone should expect from a high school athlete. She may not have caught up with her older brother on the state title count yet but there’s no doubt she defined winner in every other way this past week.
There were athletes I hoped to see come back the second time and medal when this time for all they had done since last year. Some did — Marabeth Clark — some came a foot of grass here or an inch higher up there away.
As things wound down on Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but wonder if Maryville softball had simply overachieved to reach the state tourney. The team had lost so much talent to the college ranks after last season that back in March having them just return to the sectional game seemed a stretch on paper. Too many new feet filling big shoes and all that, but every little measuring stick through the last few months got met —winning big district games, placing high in the weekend tourneys. Then came the win over Seymour in the Foothills Classic and you had to wonder if maybe this team had more umpph than the paper said it did. Then came the district tourney wins over Farragut and hmm, the right draw and sectionals might work out after all.
But Tuesday it looked like the little things might have caught up with the LaDy Rebels and in the back of my mind I was pondering the season epitaph if Wednesday morning made it two and done. You have to have it ready, even championship seasons need those lines when they end, It’s a matter of when.
Maryville’s when wasn’t Wednesday morning. It wasn’t Thursday morning, it probably shouldn’t have been Thursday night — but it was. The Lady Rebels finished fourth after coming out on the wrong side of 11 innings worth of softball. Down to the final four isn’t bad in a field that proved to be so equal. Most of the games came down to one or two plays — the hit that was just out of reach by luck, skill or soaked status of the field.
When things aren’t equal across the regions in team play it shows up early. The run-rule eliminations of teams that got through a weaker sectional are more the first-day norm than exception but this year there wasn’t one in AAA. All eight came to play. Fourth isn’t first but in this bracket all the teams had the worth to go forth and take the title.
Maryville sent Munford home after making Collierville the first team to leave before the other side of the bracket was even done with the first games. That last quarterfinal to play was Seymour’s and maybe if the Lady Eagles make it four state tourneys in a row next year, they should beg and plead to start the tourney on Tuesday because the Wednesday side has not been kind the last two years and it was another ending that hid just how good a season they had.
Some athletes you see working hard for so long and getting so much better and you just want them to catch the right breaks to be rewarded with the big trophy. It doesn’t always happen. In fact most the time it doesn’t because it is that hard, that difficult and fate sometimes just that fickle on this stage. It’s why titles are special — Maryville 4x800 girls Thursday night — and why tears are more plentiful than cheers.
But the true reward has only passing fancy do with who receives the plaque or title and the real winners at Spring Fling understand that.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com