It was singer and recording artist Stevie Wonder who said, "Life has meaning only in the struggle. Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the Gods. So let us celebrate the struggle," according to famousquotes123.com.
To that end on Sunday in the Sports Complex at Mexico High School the community gathered to once again congratulate the recently crowned Lady Bulldogs state championship Class 3 varsity softball team, which defeated Oak Grove 5-0 in Springfield at the Killian Sports Complex on Oct. 27.
"It's fun to celebrate. It's fun to share it with the community. Get everybody together and recap some things," said head coach Keith Louder. "Let everybody know what went on during the season. It kind of ties up the loose ends on the year and maybe makes it a little more real. It's fun to share it with the people who followed you all season long."
Directing this program was Mexico High School Athletic Director Jeff Anderson. His initial point of business was to show how rare this accomplishment was in comparison to the schools' history. This included a track title in 1942 and was followed by a golf championship in 1964 and a trio of Ron Whitaker-coached track and field crowns from 1975-77. The Bulldogs also earned themselves a Boys Basketball championship in 1995 and in 2017 the wrestling team won the state title.
"Those kinds of things become a little more real, those lessons learned during the regular season, after you get to the end. Not so much at the beginning," Louder said. "They make the difference. You figure out as you go along the things that really made a difference and changed things and changed your way of thinking. You begin to realize how much the mental side of things plays into it. It's just as much as the physical side. To believe in yourself and do the things you know you're body is capable of doing."
This state championship just adds to the list of accolades Louder has piled up in his 32 years with Mexico Community Schools. Among those honors in his time with the Lady Bulldogs varsity softball team include two Final Four Appearances, two Sectional Championships, two quarterfinals titles, four straight district championships and five North Central Missouri Conference titles, including the last three straight.
"I was a part of this team everyday, and there's an advantage to that. Not just at games, but at practice and everything else. You get to see what you're all about," said Louder. "Other teams and fans get to see some of it. They pick up aspects of it. A lot of people knew we could hit the ball pretty well. That we play defense pretty well. As things went on I think a lot of people reallly began to recognize how good a pitcher Paytience was. We had all the right pieces. It was nice to see them come together."
One of the presentations of the evening was about all of the attention the Lady Bulldogs recieved for winning this championship. Sometimes that many eyes and a 27-4 overall record can lead to college coaches becoming among those admirers, but from Louders point of view, all he wants is for his athletes to be happy.
"There are a couple of girls who have considered it and a few who have actually had coaches talk to them, but they haven't really haven't decided whether they want to pursue (playing college softball) themselves," Louder said. "That's the next phase. We'll find out which girls are really wanting to play and which ones are satisfied with enjoying a great high school career and moving on to the next phase of life."
Among the speakers at this event were Mayor Chris Miller. School Board of Education member Kelly Teal then took the podium. Anderson also mentioned that former Mexico Community Schools teacher Kayla Meier is still considered an assistant coach with this squad even though she is on an extended missionary journey in Romania. As for what lies ahead, on some things Louder was quite direct, on other things, not so much.
"When I retired last year I let baseball go. I'm not returning," said Louder. "I'm hoping next year it works out (for softball) and I get to come back. I want to. We'll have to wait and see. With my retirement, it becomes a year-to-year thing depending on what the school wants to do and that kind of thing. I'm still interested. There are a few people who told me I should hang it up because I won a state championship. I don't know if I'm ready to do that. We'll see what next year brings. I'm still open to it."
Another highlight for the Lady Bulldogs this season was being able to raise $600 for Audrain County Relay For Life and Ellis Fischel through t-shirt sales during their Pink Out game at home against Moberly on Sept. 27. This team also entered the playoffs on a 15 game win streak, meaning it ended the year having won 22 in-a-row.