cross country Sport Specific

What Would You Do In This Disqualified Champion’s Shoes?

(Flickr - Phil Roeder)

(Flickr – Phil Roeder)

An Iowa cross country runner was disqualified from his first-place finish at a 5k meet in October because he helped another runner cross the finish line.

We’re so used to headlines about weird situations developing among championship teams who might have deflated balls or who are allegedly using performance enhancing drugs that it might, unfortunately, not be surprising to read that sentence.

But as Today reports, there’s a lot more to this disqualification.

Zachary Hougland of Davis County High School had crossed the finish line, but returned to the course to help someone on a different team across. He had shouted, “Is anyone going to help him?” according to USA Today, and then ran to the runner, who was crawling toward the finish.

“I just couldn’t stand seeing that,” he told USA Today.

Due to a stringent rule about helping other competitors across the finish line, both Zachary and the competitor he helped were disqualified.

What are the most important lessons we learn from sports?

Zachary’s disqualification has become a thorn in the side of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, which stands by the official’s ruling even while admitting that Zachary displayed amazing sportsmanship.

But for strangers and family members — over 110,000, according to Today — Zachary’s actions are exactly what student-athletes should be doing.

“I just want to encourage people in sports to help each other when they’re hurt,” the founder of a petition asking to reinstate Zachary’s first-place finish told Today. “I would have been very proud if my son did the same thing.”

What sportsmanship would you have displayed in this disqualified champion’s shoes?

Zachary didn’t know that the officials at his cross country meet would uphold the rules so stringently when he acted. But he says he doesn’t regret losing the one first-place title he gained this season.

What about you? Would you stop to help another competitor? Have there been times when you’ve been on a pitch or field for your sport and seen someone in trouble?

It can be hard to know what the best course of action is in the heat of the moment. That’s one reason why so many elite athletes visualize what their competitions will be like.

But maybe we should all spend some more time visualizing what it would be like to be a different kind of winner.


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About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.