There I was Tuesday evening, patrolling the course at Creston’s home cross country meet, just like I usually do on the third Tuesday of each September.
Aside from the four years I spent living in St. Louis while in college, I have attended or competed in every Panther Invitational since probably the late 1990s.
I’ve never thought about it until just now, penning this column. But that seems remarkable to me.
After all those years of attending the meet, I witnessed something happen Tuesday I hadn’t seen, or at least hadn’t noticed, anytime previously.
Well, a couple of things, actually. There were at least three instances of Greater Regional Medical Center EMTs having to transport either fans or competitors to the hospital. I hope everyone who was transported away from the course is OK.
My best guess is a majority of people weren’t properly hydrated for Tuesday’s warm weather.
But what really caught my attention is what happened at the end of the night.
I had positioned myself near the top of the final hill, where runners make the ascent up Crestmoor Golf Club’s driving range and then make a turn to the east for the final sprint toward the finish line.
I wanted to cheer for Creston Community High School sophomore Isaac Ralston as he finished his race.
Coach Pat Schlapia always preaches the importance of the “cross country family.” And, he’s right. Once a part of the cross country team, always a part of the cross country team. It’s my duty as a member of the cross country family to support all members of the team, whether they cross the finish line first or last.
I’ve also become a big fan of Isaac’s since I wrote a story about him last fall during cross country season and his buddy runner at that time, Brenna Baker.
There were a few of us standing on the hillside Tuesday evening waiting for Isaac to make the turn up the hill.
Farther down the hill stood a group of girls in black uniforms.
When Isaac and his new buddy runner for this year, Isaac Wignall, started climbing the hill, the group of girls in black started going nuts, yelling and cheering.
When Isaac finally passed them, they turned and began running at an angle up the hill toward the finishing stretch. It was then that I caught a glimpse of their Glenwood jerseys.
I expected Creston team members and supporters to be out on the course cheering for Isaac, but it was truly touching to see members of another team out on the course providing support for him.
Isaac showed great determination in climbing the final hill, which was no easy task on a hot day with a strong wind blowing directly into the faces of the runners charging up the hill.
The whole time the group of Glenwood girls ran up the hill toward the finish, they continued cheering and yelling for Isaac. They waited for him to crest the final hill and turn toward the finish and cheered him on the whole way to the finish line.
This display of sportsmanship showed the cross country family isn’t just limited to those of us who ran cross country for Creston. It extends to everyone who has ever laced up a pair of spikes or put on a singlet.
It is so easy for participants of the sport to forge friendships with those on other teams. I was able to create some lasting friendships with those I competed against while I was in high school.
That sportsmanship also showed what the sport of cross country is all about. We’re all the same. When we’re on the course, it’s just us versus the clock.
There are individual victories even when someone doesn’t win the race. That’s the beauty of it all.
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Twitter – @scottvicker
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