On Sept. 26, my mom and I decided to take a day trip to Colorado Springs. This wasn’t really your normal “girl’s trip.” This had a purpose. We went to visit the Olympic Training Center to see my name on the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award that I won six years ago. To help understand the purpose of this award, here is a very short story of how a small town girl was able to win an award that the United States Olympic Committee presents every year.
In high school, I was a five-sport athlete and I spent the majority of my time either at school, in practice, or – honestly – asleep. I lived and breathed athletics and never spent a day that didn’t involve some type of practice.
On Oct. 30, 2010, at a 2A regional cross-country meet, my perception of athletics changed for the better. For anyone who may not know, a high school cross-country meet entails running 3.1 miles. At this race I wanted more than anything to qualify for the state competition and I had a specific plan for how to do it. I knew that if I stayed with a particular runner, my time would be much faster.
The race started like any other cross-country meet. I sprinted to the front to get a good racing position and to find the opponent runner that could help improve my time. At the last half mile, I lost sight of the runner I was pacing with. Closing in on finish line, I always sprint to the end and use all of my remaining energy to finish. I could see the finish line but I also spotted the runner I had been pacing with. She was stopped 10 yards from the finish line. The first thought that came to me was, “You just ran 3.1 miles and you’re not going to finish?”
When I approached this runner, I grabbed her arm and assisted her to finish the race. Unfortunately for the runner, the reason she had stopped was because her growth plate in her hip had come out of place. Doctors describe this pain as being similar to breaking a bone in your hip. I had no clue what happened to this runner. Before we reached the finish line, I placed her in front of me because I believed she earned the better placement.
This story spread like wildfire because, unfortunately, we live in a society where an act of kindness like this is unusual. As a sophomore in high school, I won three state awards. I was the inaugural recipient of the Spirit of Sport Award, presented by the North Carolina Athletic Association (NCHSAA), the Be a Good Sport Award, presented by the Durham Sports Club, and the Heart of Champion Award, also presented by the NCHSAA. Almost a half of a year had passed since the cross country meet and I thought all of the fancy banquets and awards had run their course – until my mom received a phone call announcing that I had won the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award. My parents, cross-country coach, and myself were getting flown out to Colorado Springs to be presented this award, which is normally given to Olympians and not small-town high school girls.
After six years, the wait was finally over and I was able to see the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award at the Olympic Training Center. I was experiencing every emotion that day. Once my mom and I arrived, we received a private tour of the training center and were able to take tons of pictures with the award. To this day I am in shock of how many people appreciated this act of kindness. In my mind, I did what I thought was right and I would have never expected to receive this type of notoriety.
To read the full story, head to the Charlotte Observer’s website.