The sting of a heartbreaking loss was still fresh in the minds of Valparaiso's gymnastics team, but coaches and athletes alike wasted no time congratulating the new state champions from Fort Wayne Dwenger.
Team members calmly walked over to the Saints contingent at Ball State's Worthen Arena last Saturday, shook the hands and embraced every member of the Dwenger squad.
That unselfish act struck a chord with me. In the moment of seeing their state-record streak of four-consecutive state titles come to a screeching halt, the squad postponed their sad emotions to help the new champions celebrate.
I saw Vikings coach Lorie Cook a few minutes later, and complimented her for the team's actions.
"They would've done it for us," Cook said. "It's just something we do."
Maybe so, but it's not always something I see -- either in person or on television.
I know the team was hurting, and I'm sure several tears flowed behind the curtains at Worthen Arena. It's times like these that I think you see the true heart of a champion -- gracious both in victory and defeat.
Coach Cook and junior all-around champion Morgan Algozine both admitted that the team always strives to win -- and this loss will provide some motivation for next season. I would expect nothing less -- considering the program also has the state record for overall team crowns (nine).
They put that angst and inner fire aside to share a positive moment with the Saints.
Not everyone is gracious in victory. I wasn't always in a positive mood after losses -- even in adult recreation league softball. I just saw this totally unforced procession line as something different than the norm.
I've witnessed my share of postgame exchanges between teams -- in person at high school soccer matches and I've viewed many a NHL postseason series finale.
In those cases, it's normally a standard ritual, and not every exchange is always positive. A few times at soccer matches, I've heard opposing players vent some frustrations. It never escalated into anything else, but it still wasn't a totally positive event.
Even though Cook said it was something they just do -- I viewed it as more of a selfless act. Valparaiso could have just let the Saints embrace one another and possibly congratulate them during the awards ceremony. I just lauded the fact that they instantly felt the need to go over and give their well-wishes. The official results weren't even reported but enough people did the math to know the outcome.
For those reasons, I believe this act deserves more than a slight mention. I just hope other teams on the other side of the celebration will follow suit.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.