Two high school runners in Minnesota were disqualified in the state girls cross country meet last weekend for helping an opponent who fell.
Minnesota high school junior Tierney Winter knew freshman Jessica Christoffer was struggling as she lagged about five meters behind during the Class A State Cross Country Championships. Then Winter caught a glimpse of Christoffer stumbling and falling. But instead of continuing Saturday's race (the finish line was within sight) Winter stopped, turned back, got next to Christoffer and helped her stand up.
Christoffer was in no shape to continue, however, so Winter put her arm around the exhausted runner and the pair soldiered forward.
Then senior Kailee Kiminski joined them, positioning herself on Christoffer's left side and linking arms with her, and the trio, none of whom knew each other until that moment, jogged to the finish line as one unit.
When they finished, all three were disqualified for "interfering with a runner." But neither Winter nor Kiminski cared. "I hope people understand how much we care about each other as athletes," Winter said.
"I just got tired and fell, and it wasn't good, and then there were two girls that helped me finish, and I'm really thankful for them. It means I accomplished my goal of running at state and doing well," said Christoffer.
Winter said she had no choice when she saw Christoffer fall 50 meters from the finish line. "I couldn't leave her there, so I was like, I'll help her out and we'll see what happens," adding that she helped her fallen opponent "just to be a friend."
Kiminski, who's won many a meet in her career, reflected on what she said will be her most memorable race. "I learned that it's a lot more than just running," she said. "Both of us girls were there for a reason, to help her. It was her first (state) race, and I'm proud of her for giving it her all."