And while that does not turn out to be the case all the time, watching players strive for that goal regardless makes for some great stories.
This year, we watched a great Cartersville High baseball program bid for its third-straight championship, an attempt that came a few games short.
Three individual athletes in the county did not come up short in their bid for ever-lasting glory, cementing a place in their memories as well as their family and friend's of a precious moment.
Some moments from this year are indelible, but for different reasons.
Bartow watched some beloved sports figures leave the earth this year, an undoubtedly bittersweet reminder of the fleeting nature of life.
These stories and others, whether expected or not, were some of the moments that held our attention in 2010.
State champions crowned
The state championship mantle had rested at Cartersville High, which won back-to-back baseball titles in 2008-09, prior to this year when a couple of other Bartow County schools got in on the act -- albeit with individual title winners.
Woodland High watched its student-athletes Ryan Cecil and Diana Wimpy claim state championships in wrestling and track and field, while Adairsville High senior Shamira Barrett won her third-straight track title.
In February, Cecil became king of the mountain after winning the Class AAAA 125-pound weight class. The junior would not be denied, earning a major-decision win, 14-3, over Dalton's Christian Washington.
He also beat Brunswick's Jordan Perkins (pin), Harris County's John McLemore (pin), Loganville's Josh Larue (technical fall) and Hephizbah's Steven Ellison (pin) en route to his state championship.
"This is the best thing that has ever happened to me," Cecil said after his win at the Gwinnett Center. "All of the glory goes to God in this. Without Him, none of this would ever be possible."
He also credited his family -- parents David and Laurie, brother Blake and sister Amy -- and coaches for their help and support.
"They kept working with me and pushed me to be the very best I could be," Cecil said of former Woodland coach Charlie Higdon and current Wildcats coach and former assistant Adrian Tramutola. "I'm a state champion because of them and because of my family's support."
Cecil will look to make it two state championships in a row as a senior, an opportunity that Wimpy shares following her win in the discus throw as a junior last May.
She won the Class AAAA state title by breaking her own school record with a throw of 132 feet, 9 inches, seven inches better than Westside-Augusta's Aishya Wofford.
Woodland girls track and field coach David Holloway said Wimpy -- who finished as runner-up her sophomore year -- rose to the occasion when challenged.
"She had the furthest throw of anyone in all five classifications," he said of Wimpy, who received the top performance award. "That was a great achievement."
An even greater achievement, perhaps, was Barrett's state title three-peat in the 200 meters, where her coach, Curt Wallace, gained further appreciation for his star athlete, who dug deep for last prep win.
"You watch her run and how she fights people off [is amazing]," Wallace said. "About 30 yards from the finish [line], she was still about a half step behind [Avondale's Shunika Jarrells] and I thought, 'Gosh, this is gonna be the time the [other] girl beats her.'"
It would not be, as Barrett completed her career as one of the best Lady Tiger athletes in school history.
"Shamira is the first athlete, male or female, to have three state championships [in Adairsville history]," Wallace said. "There won't be another one like her."
Canes' 3-peat bid falls short vs. Columbus
When Cory Collum hit a three-run homer to cut Columbus's lead to 7-5 in Game 2 of the Georgia High School Association state quarterfinals in May, the Cartersville baseball team appeared ready to rally and keep its hopes alive for a third straight championship.
An inning later, however, the Blue Devils' Kyle Carter hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh to provide the final 8-5 margin, ending the Canes' two-year run atop the Class AAA baseball world.
Columbus coach Bobby Howard could not be feel comfortable with his team's lead until the final out, having witnessed Cartersville come back in 2009 to win Games 2 and 3 for the state championship.
"No doubt, we had flashbacks," Howard admitted. "They took our hearts out."
The Blue Devils played the role of heartbreakers this time around.
"You don't get a lot of opportunities [against good teams], that's why when you get 'em, you take advantage of 'em, and we did not," Canes coach Stuart Chester said.
Howard called Cartersville the standard in Class AAA baseball.
"We were for awhile, but they have been for the last four years," he said. "We have the utmost respect for coach Chester and his program. They're the torchbearer for everyone else, and we feel fortunate to beat 'em."
Columbus went on to win the state championship, reclaiming its status atop Class AAA, and it would not be unthinkable to imagine another matchup between the two state powers in May as the Canes retool.
Former Cane makes it to the big show with Dodgers
Russ Mitchell, who helped lead Cartersville High to three consecutive state baseball championships during his final prep years from 2001-03, got the news of a lifetime in September when his Triple-A minor league manager, the Albuquerque Isotopes' Tim Wallach, beckoned Mitchell to his office.
Mitchell, Wallach explained, would finish the month with the team's affiliate at the Major League Baseball-level, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"[Wallach] told him and they put him on speaker phone and he got to talk to [Dodgers general manager] Ned Colletti," said Mitchell's mother, Lee Ann. "He could hardly talk. You could just hear it in his voice how excited he was."
Mitchell's high school coach, Chester, spoke to him before he boarded a plane for San Diego, where he made his MLB debut Sept. 8.
The Cartersville coach said his former player was not nervous at all.
"He's so charismatic I don't know that anything could make him nervous," Chester said. "He's very talented and, then again, he's very humble."
Mitchell's first hit was a home run off San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez Sept. 16, a feat he replicated a couple days later for his second hit, a home run off Colorado Rockies pitcher Franklin Morales.
He became the first Dodgers player in team history to record home runs for his first two hits.
Mitchell finished the season with a .143 average and four RBIs in 42 at-bats.
As a member of the Albuquerque Isotopes, he hit .315 with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs, and was selected team MVP, third baseman for the All-Pacific Coast League Team, PCL Batter of the Week (he hit .517 from Aug. 23-29) and runner-up for PCL Rookie of the Year.
Mitchell's call-up to the Dodgers could be a catalyst for things to come.
"He told his dad [Bobby Mitchell] this morning [Sept. 6], I'm going to make that team next year," Lee Ann Mitchell said the day after her son learned of the good news.
Bartow bids farewell to sports figures in '10
The year had its highlights as well as its lowlights, the latter pertaining to the deaths of Brittany Quinn, "The Nightmare" Ted Allen Lipscomb and J.B. Bearden.
Quinn, a 2009 Cass High graduate and former shortstop, died in late July as a result of an automobile accident.
When many of her teammates with the Bartow County Big League softball team played in the Southeast Regionals in Clearwater, Fla., they wore pink shoelaces in her honor.
"Brittany always loved pink," said Hannah Hight, her high school and travel ball teammate. "She wanted to wear them when she was a Lady Colonel, but they wouldn't let her."
Hight's dad, Greg, coached Quinn for many years.
"She was on my 12-and-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under and 18-and-under teams," said Greg Hight, Bartow County Parks and Recreation Department director. "My travel team bunch has stayed together 10 to 12 years, and we're a pretty close-knit family.
"She touched a lot of girls in her year's playing softball."
Nearly a month after Quinn's death, another Bartow County sports figure died when Lipscomb suffered an apparent heart attack.
Lipscomb, a Cass High graduate, died at age 54.
Known as "The Nightmare," his professional wrestling name, Lipscomb was adept at drawing a crowd into the storyline he was weaving in the ring.
"With every action, we have to tell a story," said Greg "G-Smooth" Roper, a professional wrestler from Marietta. "If we want the crowd to dislike us, we have to hold the crowds' emotions.
"Ted was a major bad guy and very good at it."
Lipscomb -- who became known for his trademark masks, including a white one with a black star over his eye -- sold that very persona so much that fans could never imagine what he was really like outside the ring.
"He was that good a bad showman," Roper said. "But once you got to know him, he was a teddy bear."
"Ted was one of the most incredible men that ever walked two feet," said Karen Wade Rush, Lipscomb's fiancée. "Ted was a son of Cartersville, and he represented Cartersville well ... Cartersville should be proud."
Bearden, 76, was another man who made many in Cartersville proud.
The former Cass High girls basketball coach and player died toward the end of September.
His former Cass High classmates, part of the first 12th-grade class in 1954, remembered him fondly.
"I can remember J.B. as a strong, upright Christian man," Mary Jo (Brooks) Gayton said. "He was one of the good ones."
That sentiment seemed to symbolize Bearden not only as a person, but also as a player and coach.
"He was one of the best basketball players I've ever seen," said Hugh Wilson, who played with the left-handed Bearden. "He was the type of guy that wanted to win."
Bearden took the mentality to Auburn University, where he played his final two collegiate years.
He then took to the sidelines, where he coached for 37 years at six different school systems, including his alma mater and Franklin County.
Bearden led Cass to a state championship in girls basketball in 1963 and later did the same in 1976 for Franklin County.
"I figured he would always be a good coach," Wilson said of Bearden. "As far as I'm concerned, he was one of the best."
Bearden, who won 1,164 games during his career, was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
Canes bring city 1st GRPA football title
State champions were not just seen on the high school level this year.
Cartersville had a 13-and-under baseball team win the Dizzy Dean state title and an 11- to 12-year-old baseball team win the Georgia Parks and Recreation Department state title, while the Bartow County Junior League softball all-stars won a state championship to advance to regionals.
Those accomplishments cannot be overlooked, but what the Canes' 12-and-under football team did earlier this month had never been done prior.
When that Canes team won the GRPA title Dec. 12 in Americus, it was the first such football title ever won by a Cartersville team.
The Canes defeated Calhoun, 14-8, in the championship, a day after scoring 36 unanswered points to beat Crisp County, 36-6, in the GRPA semifinals.
Cartersville's state championship run began following a loss earlier in the tournament and a year after a heartbreaking last-second defeat in the title game.
"These boys did a great job coming together as a team after a tough loss early in the tournament to rival Bartow County," Canes coach Pete Nunn said. "We had parents and folks in the community that felt like we were not good enough to continue but from that moment on, the theme was no intimidation -- we would no longer be intimidated.
"After some much deserved time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, we were a different team; we were a team on a mission and we were not going to be denied. There was too much history of coming up short over the past four years."
-- Associate sports editor David Royal, Rick Braselton and former sports editor Chris Stephens contributed to this article.