Last week, our family of four piled into the car and spent the day at the Ohio High School State Track Meet, as we do every year. It was a little overcast, breezy and an unusually cool 70 degree day - a welcome change from the usual 90+ degrees when tens of thousands melt on the metal bleachers. Every year we get to see a few records go down. Luckily, since our kids graduated recently, we're still familiar with some of the athletes participating. This year was a special treat, though, because there was one of those great moments in life that I'll never forget.
Earlier in the day, Meghan Vogel of West Liberty Salem High School had won the Girls' Division III 1600 meter run in her first sub 5:00 minute performance ever, defeating a former state champ who she'd never beaten before that day. Humble and bubbling, she was beside herself with excitement afterwards. Later, she joined the entrants in the 3200 meter run, but by a few laps into the race it was apparent she'd expended her energy on the race of her life already and so she settled into the back of the field. The winner came across the line and one by one all the rest. Vogel was on the backstretch by then, in last place.
As Vogel came to the top of the homestretch, everyone in the stadium became focused on another runner, Arden McMath who, with less than 50 meters to go, stumbled, went down to the ground, got up and stumbled again. Fatigue had taken its toll. The officials rushed towards McMath, but then backed off. You see, if they had aided her in finishing, it was grounds for disqualification. So all they could do was wait and watch. As long as she was still moving, they were going to let her finish the race.
Behind her, Vogel closed the distance. McMath went down again. This time she didn't look like she was going to go on. Vogel stopped, lifted her up and helped her to her feet. McMath's arm slung over Vogel's shoulder, they walked step by step toward the finish line. The crowd came to its feet in applause. When the pair reached the line, Vogel let go of her and made sure that McMath stepped across the line first. Everyone glanced at the officials, waiting for the yellow flag to go up in the air, signalling a rule violation. It never did.
In the face of that selfless moment, the officials chose to publicly ignore a technicality and acknowledge the sportsmanship. I still get teary-eyed when I think of it. Vogel could have run past her and no one would have thought anything of it. The officials could have DQ'd both girls; they didn't.
It was a very noble moment on many fronts and I'm glad I was there to witness it.
Kind runner helps rival go the distance (The Columbus Dispatch)