Many athletes will wear the badge of champion, most of them following league or state titles.
But a pair of Tri-City softball players earned the right to call themselves national champions.
Amanda Hall and Katie Lowery each made key contributions to Pacific Lutheran's 3-0 victory over Linfield in the NCAA Division III championship Monday in Salem, Va.
Hall, a Kennewick grad, had an RBI single to give the Lutes a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. It was the fifth RBI in four games for the junior, who was named to the all-tournament team.
"It's crazy and a little bit surreal," Hall said via telephone. "Once that last out was recorded and we dog-piled and everything, everything after that was a blur. Ten minutes later, I had to ask my teammates how we made the last out. I could not remember.
"It was awesome."
Lowery, who played at Southridge, went 1-for-3 at the plate, but it was her work behind it that really paid off. The sophomore caught Stacey Hagensen's three-hit shutout of the defending national champs and turned the kind of outstanding defense performance that coach Erin Van Nostrand has come to expect.
"In my opinion, she's the best defensive player in the country," the fourth-year coach said of Lowery, a second-team Northwest Conference and all-region selection. "I would not trade Katie Lowery for any player in the world."
Lowery, a starter for PLU since she stepped on Tacoma campus, said she never expected to wear the mantle of national champion.
"You don't. I never thought I would," she said. "Not because our team wasn't good, (but) you just don't think you will."
Hagensen, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, scored the game's first run in the first inning, coming around from second on All-American Kaaren Hatlen's double.
Hall delivered her run-scoring hit in the fourth, and Hagensen drove in the final run in the fifth on a fielder's choice.
It was the first NCAA title for the Lutes, who finish 45-11. The program won two NAIA titles in the early '90s.
Monday was the ninth time the two Northwest Conference foes played this season, with PLU taking six wins off the Wildcats (46-7).
Lowery finished the season hitting .295 with 26 RBIs, 23 runs scored, eight doubles, one error and two passed balls.
Hall was second on the team in hitting (.374) with 14 doubles, five home runs, 14 doubles, 46 RBIs and 20 runs scored.
Van Nostrand said Hall was recruited from Columbia Basin College to provide protection hitting behind Hatlen, but she turned into a real gem at first base.
"Since the conference tournament, she has been lights out. Whenever we needed a hit, she got a hit," Van Nostrand said. "Her defense has been a huge surprise. She has worked really hard to be a very good first baseman."
While the softball season is over, there is still plenty of work ahead for the players -- finals start as soon as they fly home today on their charter plane. But Lowery said there is still a little time to celebrate.
"We knew at the beginning of the season we were a good team," she said. "But we didn't realize the full extent of that. Making our way through the conference tournament and through regionals, slowly but surely it sank in, how great our potential was.
"We finally realize, all 20 of us, we're a really good team."
Got a big trophy to prove it, too.