CORONA:  Life is full of challenges.  That much is a given, and despite a culture that at times seems to offer a myriad of ways to avoid such trials, sometimes one just has to accept it and find a way through without giving up.

Such could be said of sports too, as “winning seasons” and an easy road to the championship are as elusive as the morning mist.

PEAK, the athletic department’s philosophy at King High, speaks to this reality, and in fact, it is the learning and growing found in losing games and “losing seasons” that serves as one of the key pillars in the structure of PEAK.

The girls soccer season ended yesterday and will be remembered as a uniquely challenging time.  Coaching changes and games lost were the story line. Well past the midway mark of the campaign, the girls were at the crossroads of adversity and frustration … nothing seemed to be going right and another coaching staff was called in.

Three weeks ago, Coach Rance Garrett, a long-time fixture of the King High culture and campus, was called on to take the varsity team to the end and he instantly recognized the unique and difficult spot the girls .. now his girls… had found themselves in.

Talking with Garrett, it seemed clear to the listener that he understood PEAK and knew intuitively that the lessons learned falling short are arguably more valuable than those gained from the win column.  While defeat is never the goal nor very fun, Garrett knew and tried to teach that growing is the ultimate value, regardless of the score or the season’s record.  Life, like a large spool, unwinds after high school is over; it is not spent when the buzzer sounds at the end of 80 minutes of play.

Garrett preached to his charges that adversity hits everyone and champions are born in how they respond to trials.

The trial continued on and up to the waning seconds of the season on Wednesday, as the team lost to Centennial 0-1.

“The Centennial Huskies breathed a sigh of relief knowing that they escaped with a 1-0 win” Garrett said.  “Our girls are much improved.”

During the game, both teams fought hard on every possession. The first half ended with a nil-nil score.

The second half was much like the first. Tough, physical play mixed with mental toughness was abundant.

Somehow, someway, the Huskies were able to get a loose ball in the box past the goal line for a fortuitous score with less than 10 minutes left in the match.  Thus ended the hopes of an upset over the first place Huskies.

Coach Garrett let the team know how proud he was of their effort. He thanked the seniors for showing the underclassmen how to finish their careers at King by giving their best effort in a game that meant nothing in the standings.

“It would have been easy to “mail in” this last game but they didn’t.” he said.  “It was clearly an outstanding performance by all.”

Long after the sting of lost games has worn off, the memory of rough details has eroded into softer edges and the season of 2018 is in the distant past, the girls just may remember the better things, the valuable things, the victories snatched from the jaw of defeat.

Abby Najera, a junior who weathered this season seemed to have already planted the seeds which will bloom in maturity:  “We had a rough start [to the season],” she said, “but I was able to learn how to deal with my problems responsibly and grow as a person.”

With a nod to the impact of Coaches Garret, Erin Gonzalez and Jeff Wray who stepped in mid-season to help guide the girls, Najera said, “I cannot express how thankful I am for [them] for stepping in and finishing the season with us and creating an atmosphere that I love playing soccer in.”

In a sentence or two, that’s PEAK.  And PEAK can be found, even in the shadows of defeat.