Joseph High School's girls basketball team accomplished an impressive feat over the weekend, winning back-to-back state championships in the Class 1A division.

While the Lady Eagles were shooting, rebounding and passing their way to the title, Enterprise's girl basketball team also was playing, finishing the season as the state's fifth-best Class 2A team.

Colby Byers of Wallowa High School and Joseph students Ethan Lowe and Grant Marcum all took second place in the state wrestling tournaments. Joseph's Sam Garnett won third.

The triumphant seasons of these standout Wallowa County teams and athletes serves as a reminder of the importance of sports in schools. As Oregon's legislature and local school boards grapple with budget shortfalls and less revenue, we hope they make a solid commitment to preserving athletic programs at the high school and middle school levels.

Athletics teach students a number of valuable lessons that often can't be taught in the classroom. Aside from winning and losing, athletic programs teach students teamwork, sportsmanship, physical fitness, quick thinking and decision making, organization, respect and discipline. For a few, they provide an opportunity to go to college. For most, they teach valuable lessons - the thrill of victory, the need to be competitive and that life goes on after defeat. Students learning to motivate themselves on the field, court, track or mat often are able to motivate themselves later in life. Some of the greatest memories many people have of their school years come from time spent on athletic teams.

Academics are the biggest priority of our local schools, and should be, but athletics and other extra curricular activities must not be overlooked as educators deal with our current economic problems.

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