CEDAR FALLS - I've always found the end of a state tournament journey to be the best time for reflection and appreciation.
I am disappointed for kids who are disappointed in themselves. They accomplish so much, yet parting memories are often tainted by the bitter taste of defeat.
It's a natural reaction, of course. I've never expected players, parents or even fans to find a lot of solace or comfort in a loss immediately afterward. Like everything else in life, a sense of perspective often takes time and distance to develop.
For those of us not observing from the inner circle, though, pride and admiration should come at the conclusion of a successful season. And when it comes to the 2013 St. Edmond football team, I do mean successful in every sense of the word.
I know what the scoreboard read after Friday's Class 1A title game at the UNI-Dome. The final doesn't need to be repeated here. I couldn't personally care less how lopsided it may look to the outside world.
What I do care about is making sure these Gaels are recognized for their overall body of work. Let's take a long, hard look at what St. Edmond did instead of dwelling on the one thing it didn't do.
The Gaels won 13 games for the first time in school history. Reached the UNI-Dome for the first time in school history. Played in - and won - a semifinal contest for the first time in school history.
St. Edmond also got an ol' ball coach to the championship round for the first time after 60 seasons on the sidelines. At 83 years old, Dick Tighe will cherish that forever. Trust me. He loves these kids, and they'll always hold a special place in his heart for helping him experience a moment was long overdue.
Some may say there's heartbreak in reaching a state tournament in any given sport and not seeing the ultimate dream all the way through. Some may say it's even more painful to reach the final round, only to come up a single victory short.
Rather than dwelling on what could have been, focus on the good. The great. The unprecedented.
The Gaels were only denied by a juggernaut. Iowa City Regina has won 56 consecutive times. Four straight state titles. That's more than just a dynasty - it's the kind of rarefied air that is earning national notoriety.
If there's one thing I've learned through years of covering games on the grand stage, it's that a championship-level effort doesn't always lead to an actual championship. St. Edmond didn't come up short. Tighe's squad exceeded their wildest expectations. To fret over Friday's final isn't fair to anyone wearing green and white.
Fly that Gael flag proudly today. These kids should be recognized for how far they've come, and for achieving something that - win or lose - had never been done in school history. That will forever be their legacy.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org