The end is never easy. Even when you know you've only got 40 minutes left in your season and your career, coming to grips with the end of such a significant part of your life is hard to process. That went for Iowa's Caitlin Clark on Sunday, and it also applied to us as Iowa women's basketball fans. An amazing two-year ride had come to an end.

Caitlin Clark's Iowa career can be neatly summed up in numbers that we've all heard a thousand times. But that is not her greatest gift to the game of basketball. Records will be broken, but what will always be remembered are the moments. The absolute joy that fans like me enjoyed when we watched this team play the game of basketball. A women's basketball player became one of the most famous athletes in the world! And she is from Iowa! While others might have been drawn to the supernova known as Caitlin Clark, Iowans held her close. She is our national treasure. She is an Iowan.

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
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Sunday was one last chance to see Clark nail her logo threes. She and the rest of this Iowa women's basketball team fought to stay with an unbeaten South Carolina team until the very end. And then when the outcome was no longer in doubt, Caitlin Clark got one last curtain call. It will seem strange to see her in anything other than an Iowa uniform next season.

To try and sum up what Caitlin Clark has meant to this state is nearly impossible. I can't speak for everyone, but I'll tell you what she has meant to me. She has shown my daughters and young girls everywhere that they can be stars. She has shown girls that it is OK to show emotion during a game. She has shown girls that the most popular athlete in the U.S. can be a woman! She has been an example of a true teammate, giving her teammates flowers at every opportunity. And she has handled the immense pressure to perform on the biggest stage every single time.

In an emotional locker room speech after yesterday's loss, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder talked about how this team "got to do this together." That is what this amazing ride has been about all along. Hawkeye fans. Basketball fans. Iowans. We got to do this together.

As Caitlin's season was coming to an end, my daughter Cayleigh's volleyball season was ending too. After starting the day with a thrilling win, her team came up short. When the match was over and the finality of the situation set in, Cayleigh cried. Cried harder than I'd seen her in a long time. I gave her a hug as she left the court to spend some final moments with her teammates.

The end is never easy.


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