Minneapolis residents and the entire region should be proud of North High School for winning the Minnesota Class 1A football championship. The Polars became the first city team to win a state football championship in nearly 40 years.

With their Saturday Prep Bowl victory at U.S. Bank Stadium, North has a new football trophy to pair with the state basketball championship the boys’ team won in March. North is known as a basketball power. But the football title marked only the third time a Minneapolis City Conference team ever won a state football championship — and the first since Minneapolis Washburn took top honors in 1977.

The achievement is especially sweet for the North school community and fans who successfully lobbied to keep the city’s oldest high school open. In 2010, district administrators proposed closing the school because of declining enrollment and poor academic performance. Football coach Charles Adams, a North High graduate, was particularly gratified to have his team and alma mater emerge as champions.

The dedication, focus and hard work that brought North the title underscore an important study recently done by the Minneapolis School District. For the first time, the district data experts matched student athletes with graduation rates. They learned that students who play sports graduate at significantly higher rates than those who don’t. Of the 666 seniors who participated in athletics last school year, all but seven — or an outstanding 99 percent — graduated last spring, with an average 3.15 GPA. That’s compared with the districtwide graduation rate of 64 percent and a statewide rate of 82 percent in 2015.

Academic requirements for student-athletes certainly contribute to the graduation rates. Minnesota State High School League rules say that student-athletes must be “making academic progress toward graduation.” And the Minneapolis district also requires a minimum 2.0 GPA for students to play.

Positive connections between sports and academics show the importance of maintaining athletic programs in schools. The Minneapolis study and similar findings across the nation prove that athletics can help kids get better grades, learn tenacity and promote teamwork.

Congratulations to the Polars for bringing a coveted state championship to the city. And thanks to the coach and team for providing another example of the important link between academic and athletic success.