Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SPORTS+ - Paul Woody pwoody@Times­Dis­ (804) 649-6444 @World_of_Woody

The T-D colum­nist lauds the teams that con­ducted them­selves with sports­man­ship on Satur­day.

Caitlin Aber­nethy fought it for as long as she could.

She prac­ti­cally bit her lip. But as she talked about her team­mates and their fi­nal game to­gether, her emo­tions over­came her re­solve.

Tears be­gan to flow.

And it was as if per­mis­sion had been given to other Prince Ge­orge play­ers to let their emo­tions go as well.

These were tears of hap­pi­ness and cel­e­bra­tion. Prince Ge­orge, af­ter years of try­ing, broke through soft­ball’s state ceil­ing and won the Class 5 cham­pi­onship Satur­day over Brooke Point.

Prince Ge­orge wasn’t the only win­ner. Cham­pi­ons were crowned in Vir­ginia High School League Class 5 and Class 6 com­pe­ti­tion at Glen Allen and Deep Run in soft­ball, ten­nis, soc­cer, base­ball and lacrosse.

While the win­ners were deter­mined Satur­day, these cham­pi­onships were years in the mak­ing.

Prince Ge­orge pitcher Laura Thompson, a se­nior, has played soft­ball most of her life.

“Since T-ball,” she said. She’s thrown thousands and thousands of pitches, played in al­most as many games, lifted weights and worked on speed and stamina in the off-sea­son.

“I push my­self to the lim­its,” she said

She and her sis­ter Sarah — with their brother they are triplets — al­ready have be­gun the work­outs for the Con­cord Col­lege soft­ball team, where they will play next sea­son.

The mo­ti­va­tion for this has to be some­thing big­ger than win­ning a state ti­tle or play­ing in col­lege.

Cham­pi­onships are a byprod­uct of mak­ing the ef­fort to be the ab­so­lute best.

“We were told to play for the lit­tle girl that started off in soft­ball and to never look back,” Thompson said, her voice crack­ing with emo­tion. “I think all of us truly be­lieve that.”

There are no guar­an­tees, though. Hours, days, months and years of dili­gent, of­ten ex­haust­ing off-sea­son work don’t nec­es­sar­ily lead to cham­pi­onships or col­lege ca­reers.

In the boys Class 5 soc­cer cham­pi­onship game, Deep Run and Albe­marle went through reg­u­la­tion and four over­times in sear­ing, cramp-in­duc­ing heat be­fore Albe­marle claimed a vic­tory in a way few want to see any match end, on penalty kicks.

When all the ef­fort that goes into reach­ing a state ti­tle game fails to re­sult in vic­tory, it’s good if you’ve acted as a cham­pion dur­ing the game. Play­ers don’t re­al­ize it, but some­one al­ways is watch­ing.

In the sec­ond half Satur­day, Albe­marle mid­fielder Wes­ley Cheuk (Chuck) and a Deep Run player got their legs tan­gled on the side­line. Cheuk went down and im­me­di­ately grabbed his left leg. He was in ob­vi­ous pain.

It was any en­durance ath­lete’s worst en­emy, a se­vere cramp.

Along came Deep Run’s Austin King, who grasped Cheuk’s shoe, lifted the leg into the air and gently pushed Cheuk’s toes back­ward in an ef­fort to neu­tral­ize the cramp.

Cheuk didn’t re­al­ize who was hold­ing his leg aloft.

“No, but I was very thank­ful for him,”

Cheuk said. “It was great sports­man­ship.”

Ear­lier in the game, Cheuk and King, both ju­niors, had ex­changed blows to the mouth when their arms were flail­ing as they went af­ter a loose ball.

“I said, ‘My bad.’” King said. “He said, ‘My bad.’”

“Noth­ing in­ten­tional,” Cheuk said.

When Cheuk went down later, King said, “I just felt like I should show him some re­spect, show some sports­man­ship.”

The hard part of play­ing for a cham­pi­onship is act­ing like a cham­pion when things don’t go your way.

In that re­gard, the Dou­glas Free­man girls’ soc­cer team could give a tu­to­rial.

Satur­day, the Rebels lost to Briar Woods in a morn­ing match. The Free­man girls did not let the loss ruin their day. They were prac­ti­cally ir­re­press­ible.

It wasn’t that the Free­man girls, who up­set Deep Run to get to the cham­pi­onship game, hadn’t pre­pared to win.

Hast­ings Cren­shaw be­gan play­ing soc­cer “in the womb,” she said. “I came out kick­ing.”

Along the way, she and her se­nior team­mates Shan­non Galt and Sarah Halsey have played in hun­dreds of games for Free­man and on travel teams.

“We worked our butts off to get here,” Cren­shaw said. “I don’t think any­one re­ally pre­pares for a loss. You come in want­ing to win. You come out with a loss, it is what it is, but you’ve got to play to win. It’s kind of crazy that it’s over.”

Free­man coach Bill Bar­toszek was proud of his team’s run to the cham­pi­onship game and how the play­ers han­dled dis­ap­point­ment.

He also was re­al­is­tic. “We weren’t ex­pected to be in this spot,” he said. “We’re happy be­ing the run­ners-up in the state.

“The ex­pec­ta­tions weren’t to get to the fi­nals. Next year, they’re prob­a­bly go­ing to think they should win ev­ery­thing. If we don’t, I think you’re go­ing to see a dif­fer­ent mood with this team.”

Prob­a­bly so. And it will be a pity.


Deep Run’s Josh Kirk­land and Matt Shriner re­act af­ter Albe­marle won the Class 5 boys soc­cer state ti­tle af­ter four over­times and penalty kicks.


Dou­glas Free­man’s Lau­ren Bruns gets tan­gled up with Briar Woods’ Kather­ine Bjornsen dur­ing Class 5 girls soc­cer. Free­man’s team ex­em­pli­fied good sports­man­ship.

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