INDIANAPOLIS -- It was heartbreak. Pure and unadulterated heartbreak.

The state title that the Southmont softball team worked so hard for had eluded them.

And the tears that rolled down the faces of the girls were saturated with everything that had been poured in to this season.

The tears were filled with memories of every bit of hard work. Every improvement. Every setback. Every success and every piece of history that they created.

But most of all they were filled with passion and desire. Love for one another. Passion for the game that two of the seniors will never play competitively again. Desire to call themselves the best team in the state at their level.

And the tears rolled because it was all gone in an instant.

A leadoff double started the seventh inning. And then senior ace McKenzi Jordan had her fingernail ripped off on a throw back from the catcher. It was a freak occurrence out of a movie. But in a movie the Mounties would have overcame. Not the case in reality. Unable to throw anything but fastballs, Jordan hit her spot and it was smacked to the fence in left field.

Game over. Season over. Dream smashed.

So the tears rolled.

Understandably so.

The tears weren't shocking. But the way the girls handled themselves was impressive.

It would be easy to assume that 15 to 18 year olds would be a wreck after a loss like that. But the girls recovered. They flashed small grins of appreciation as fans lined the exit of the dugout to congratulation them on their achievements. They went to a practice field at Ben Davis High School and talked to fans.

They hugged each other. They hugged parents. The tears still rolled.

But they knew that what they had done was bigger than the pain any of them had felt.

They set a new standard at Southmont. Only one other team had made it to the state finals. These girls showed everyone that it was still attainable, no matter the sport.

They recovered.

Jordan fought back tears and was in obvious pain from the displaced fingernail, but she explained her perspective of the game. As the reality of her last game set in, Korbin Myers talked about the up-and-comers. With tears still rolling, junior Brooke England thanked the seniors, understanding the impact of this season.

It was inspiring to watch.

Mere moments after coming up short of the only thing in the world they wanted that day, these teenagers took a realistic and adult view of their accomplishments.

It was triumph. Pure and unadulterated triumph.

Because softball ends. Whether they go on to play in college or to coach, eventually softball ends. And life matters. These girls weren't able to claim a state championship, but champions in this world are made through sports, not judged through sports.

And Saturday, when the final tear hit the dirt,or the floor of the bus or the pillow, these girls were champions.

Champions because they had done so much more than played a game. They brought a community together and inspired a generation of players. What they accomplished can't be awarded with a trophy.

It will be awarded as they move into the world after high school and use the work ethic and perspective they gained to triumph. And they will be rewarded with success in their careers and lives. They will be rewarded with smiles.

And these tears will just be long-forgotten spots in the dirt, or on the bus floor or on the pillow.

Smiles will prevail. Because these girls are champions.