(AUDIO FILE BELOW -- PLEASE LISTEN)
(Two additional audio files added, also below.)
Thursday night at the regional cross country meet at Columbus Junction, something happened that was all at once strange and wonderful and heartwarming and terrible and awful and outrageous all at the same time.
Davis County cross country runner Zach Hougland won the individual regional crown and his fourth consecutive trip to the boys state cross country meet in Des Moines.
Then, after he was finished with his race, he noticed another runner -- a kid from Mediapolis, who was in trouble.
The kid was struggling and stumbling, and had fallen down about 100 feet from the finish line. Could have been exhaustion, dehydration -- who knows?
So Zach went over to this other young man, picked him up, and guided him to the finish line, giving him some dignity and getting him some much-needed help. It was a show of sportsmanship and a remarkable display of humanity and kindness in a world where there's not enough of any of those things.
What did Zach get for his actions? He got applause and respect and the adoration of all the witnesses around him.
Oh, and he got disqualified from the meet.
That's right -- because the rules state that one runner cannot aid another runner, the meet officials ruled that Zach would be stripped of his first-place finish and his district title -- something he has been working toward for at least four years.
It seems that most of the coaches at the meet were on record as saying they would gladly waive the rule in this case -- since Zach's actions had absolutely no impact on the competitive part of the race, and did not influence the team scores or individual state qualifiers in any way. But there was one coach who just had to be a stickler, and he made damn sure the rule was enforced.
No good deed goes unpunished.
The one silver lining for Davis County is that the other runners on the team finished well enough that, even without Zach's championship score, the squad finished third and qualified for the state meet. So Zach and his teammates will still get to compete at the highest level.
But still -- crap like this drives me crazy.
Listen to my radio interview with one Davis County cross country parent who witnessed the entire situation, Joanna McCoy. You will be glad you did!