COLUMBIA, Mo. — A cross country runner from John Burroughs abandoned his hopes of a top-25 finish in the state meet to help another runner across the finish line.
Nathaniel Doty, a senior, said he had already passed one fallen runner during Thursday's meet at Gans Creek Cross Country Course when he noticed another runner stumbling and struggling to the finish line.
"I thought I couldn't pass two people who need help," Doty said.
So he lent a steadying arm to Noah McMullen, a Luthean St.Charles junior who collasped just a breath away from the finish line.
Doty lost eight spots, finishing 33rd, to see another runner finish the Class 3 state championship meet.
"I just wanted to help him get across," Doty said. "We had faced them in districts and they're just fantastic runners."
Doty's coach, Christine Bugnitz, wasn't surprised about the act of sportsmanship from Doty.
"That's what I would expect," Bugnitz said. "He could have gotten a medal, but that was more important than a medal."
According to a Missouri State High School Activities Association meet official, McMullen was disqualified because he was helped by another runner. That is consistent with National Federation High School rules for cross country and the disqualification affected the team standings as Lutheran St. Charles finished second place in the team standings.
"It was devastating to see," Lutheran St. Charles junior Caleb Lind said. "We worked so hard and we felt like it was ours."
Fatima was crowned the team champion with 98 points and Lutheran St. Charles finished second with 109.
Before the disqualification, Lutheran St. Charles had edged Fatima by two points in the team standings.
"We had some ups and downs and they wanted it badly," Lutheran St. Charles coach Elizabeth Fruend said. "I'm upset for them because they worked so hard. Second place, we're happy with that."
To see a fellow St. Louis area competitor help her runner cross the finish line epitomized why Elizabeth Fruend chose to coach the sport.
"You don't see that in many other sports," Fruend said. "Cross country just has a different breed of kid. They're competitive, but at the end of the day, they can shake their hands and congratulate each other."