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It was a season of comebacks

There is no shame in getting knocked down — the shame is in not getting back up.

You’ll hear this a lot from those that work with youngsters — coaches, parents, teachers, etc — and it’s just another catchy way to say the granddaddy of all mantras:

Don’t give up.

It also summed up the glory that was the winter preps season, a season that will log more mileage if Bradenton Christian’s boys basketball team can win the Class 1A-Region 3 title against Lakeland Victory Christian on Saturday.

All the winter’s winners had been knocked down in the past. All rose up at the right time and snatched a little history.

What made this season so special was that all of the achievements came in the wake of defeat, whether on the soccer fields or the basketball courts, or inside the wrestling room.

Perhaps Saint Stephen’s boys soccer team would have posed for photos and hugged everyone in sight had they beaten anyone to win a spot in the Class 2A state final four.

That the win came at the expense of Tampa Prep, the Falcons’ arch nemesis since 2005, made it feel even better.

“Huge relief,” said senior Kevin Peterson.

Palmetto’s boys soccer team became the first in program history to reach the state semis. But the Tigers had to do it in double overtime...after losing the regional finals the last two years.

Manatee’s Jacob Gregory personified perseverance. After losing twice in the finals at the Class 2A state wrestling tournament, and losing a lead this season with three second left in the second period, Gregory scored a reversal deep into the first overtime period to win the state title at 125 pounds.

As the gold medal hung around his neck, Gregory stood near the back of The Lakeland Center after the match, staring at the bracket scribbled on the white piece of poster board given to every state champion.

Hard to tell what was shining brighter — Gregory’s medal or Gregory’s face.

And the Panthers wouldn’t be prepping for another regional final if they weren’t able to shake off the two previous losses they suffered to Sarasota Christian, including one that cost them a district title.

You work and sweat and prepare, and set aside personal goals and personal time. You do it all to win, of which there is no subsitute.

But sometimes, losing is the best thing that can happen. It’s the picture you stick in the corner of your mirror. It’s that nauseous, empty feeling you hope to never experience again.

Losing is the one thing all winners have in common, for that’s what separates the winners from everyone else — the ability to bounce back from defeat.

The ability to get back up.

It was a special season for local sports in Manatee County.

It was because of the resiliency of some pretty special people.