Cheers to bringing sports thrills to women and girls

Your exulting triumphs and crushing defeats are stories that take center stage along with the boys.

Last weekend’s Mat Classic at the Tacoma Dome marked the culmination of this winter’s wrestling season.

On the island, four athletes — sophomore Lena Puz and seniors Michael Ryland, Colin McIntyre and Chase Bradrick — qualified for the competition, showing great skill and strength in performances of which Vashon should be proud.

At The Beachcomber, we’re also proud of the decision by Vashon High School’s wrestling program to bring back a day of competition for girls at the island’s Rock Wrestling Tournament this January. Girls have wrestled at the Rock for many years, but this was the first time in more than two decades that the girls had their own dedicated day to compete.

Setting aside that space sends a message: Your exulting triumphs and crushing defeats are stories that take center stage along with the boys. They are written in the same ink, brewed from sweat, dust and tears. They teach the same lessons — the almost maniacal joy of pushing beyond your limits, the value of practice and discipline, the pure fun of travelling with your team.

Assistant coach Stephen Murphy put the decision best in January: “We’re excited to be doing that again here, 21 years later. … I’m really enamored by the opportunities that are available, and … what it teaches people about themselves to go out on the mat and compete.”

It is oh-so common, however, for those lessons to be forgotten by writers and editors, who often robotically default to pictures and write-ups of just the boys in their papers. Or we default to putting “girls” or “womens” in front of a sport name when we don’t do the same for boys and men. These choices become ingrained over enough time. We don’t think about it.

But we should, because the decision to highlight girls in sports — or to set aside dedicated time for them to compete — sends a message to their sisters in elementary and middle school that their aspirations are exciting and worthy to their community.

So here’s to the girls (and the boys) of Vashon High School wrestling — and to many more years of their accomplishments, presented side-by-side, a symbol of pride for the island.