Some weary boys stepped off the school bus on Sunday, but they were holding the ultimate prize, a long-sought state championship for Bayfield...in basketball.
This small school has won plenty of other state athletic titles before, notably in football, track, cheer and cross country, buy not on the basketball court.
They had played hard for three days, sandwiched in between a 600-mile round trip on a school bus, so it had not been a leisurely trip.
But they were celebrating a seven-game winning streak, including three games against private academies that have the luxury of picking and choosing their players.
Small public schools in Southwest Colorado don't have that luxury.
But in a way that plays to Bayfield's strength, Coach Jeff Lehnus told the proud parents and friends who gathered to meet the bus.
These boys grew up together, playing basketball. Some of their parents played basketball in Bayfield. Coach Prior, the grandfather of one of this year's players, had coached at Bayfield.
Lehnus also credited our small town for the boys' success this season. Success on the court and on the field starts with parents driving them to practice and coaching those T-ball and parks and recreation games. It often involves playing in leagues beyond the school district and town, which involves a lot of trips to Farmington, Albuquerque and Denver.
State success also is due to respect for the coaches, the team, and the game.
Lehnu thanked his assistants for the long hours they put in on the court, as well.
It's also a lot of work from friends, family, cheerleaders, our trainer, bus drivers and the rest of the staff at Bayfield schools.
Our school has a lot to be proud of this year. In addition to state titles in 2A football and 3A poms for the dance team, there was a second-place state performance for the Marching Wolverines, post-season play for boys soccer and girls basketball, a runner at the state boys cross-country meet, and our Skills USA and Knowledge Bowl students are still heading to state competition!
Congratulations go to Ignacio High School, as well, for achieving another formidable task this year - winning regionals and sending both of their basketball teams to the state 2A tournament, a first for this basketball-crazy town.
It's good to see our teams win with the support of their hometowns.
We are proud of all of these kids.
Thanks for reading.