Winning a high school state championship in any sport, individually or as a team, is no easy task.
Win one, and you’ve earned the right to wear the title of State Champion for life.
Win two without a loss, like the Mountain Ridge softball team did in consecutive seasons, and you go down as one of the great teams of all time.
Win four, with every member of the family owning one like the Wilhelm family of Mount Savage, and you’re pretty much in a class by yourself.
It’s a pretty impressive sight, those four state championship plaques, covering three sports, three schools and three decades.
Father Jake was a halfback on Mt. Savage’s 1978 boys soccer team that won the Class C (now 1A) state championship.
Mother Leslie was a hitter on the 1979 Mt. Savage volleyball team that won the Class C state crown.
Daughter Tasha was a third baseman on the Beall softball team that won the Class 1A title in 2004.
And daughter Kiya kept the string going a few weeks ago as the designated player on the Mountain Ridge softball team that went 23-0 for the second year in a row.
Mountain Ridge softball and soccer coach Martha Mauzy has coached Tasha and Kiya and their mom, too, when she was an assistant coach at Mt. Savage. Mauzy said both girls remind her of their mother in certain ways.
“Both Tasha and Kiya definitely have natural ability, great desire and are hard workers,’’ said Mauzy. “And both are smart players who know the game very well.”
Tasha was a third baseman and catcher on the softball team and a striker and midfielder in soccer. Kiya also plays soccer, and is more of a defensive player, Mauzy said.
“Both parents have been very supportive. And because they’ve been there themselves, they realize what their children have accomplished. It just doesn’t happen often. It’s a rarity for anyone in a family to be a state champion.”
Tasha was first-team All-Area in softball and soccer, and the girls soccer Player of the Year in 2005. She went on to star on the women’s soccer team at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.
Kiya still has her senior year to go. Another state championship — and the way things have been going at Mountain Ridge lately, who’s to say it couldn’t happen — and she would break the family tie and own bragging rights in the Wilhelm household.
There are plenty of required ingredients in building a state championship team. Talent, hard work and desire aren’t always enough. There’s a little thing called luck. The bounce of a ball. The width of a goal post. Perhaps even the call (or non-call) of an umpire or referee, or a well-timed thunderstorm.
Would you rather be lucky than good? When it comes to state championships, you’ve got to be both.
“The rarity of doing it proves how difficult it is to win a state championship,’’ said Mauzy. “I think some people from Mt. Savage in years past got used to going to state tournaments, and I think some kids at Mountain Ridge right now are getting used to going. But I don’t know if they realize how difficult it really is to win it.”
Leslie played in a volleyball program at Mt. Savage during a time when it was arguably the best in the state year-in and year-out. In a nine-year span, 1975 to 1983, coach Joanne Nickel’s team reached the state tournament eight times. Three teams won state titles (1979, 1982, 1983). Three others were runners-up (1975, 1977, 1978).
She also played on the girls basketball team in the middle of a similar run. During those same nine years the Indians played in eight state tournaments. But only one won it all, in 1977. One team finished second, and six others were semifinalists.
Jake was a junior on the soccer team that lost in the semifinals the year before it won the state championship.
Tasha played in three softball state tournaments at Beall, which went 1 for 3, finishing No. 1 once and No. 2 once. The Mountaineers lost in the semifinals the other year.
That’s only a little bit of evidence that state championships aren’t a dime a dozen. They’re rare indeed.
Except for the Wilhelms. And they’ve got the hardware to prove it.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org