Hugh Hudson’s 1981 film “Chariots of Fire” is filled with wonderful moments. Do you remember its opening and closing shots of runners on a wave-swept beach and Eric Liddell’s proclamation that “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast?”
It has all sorts of memorable scenes. In one of my personal favorites, though, Liddell stops mid-race to help up a fellow runner who had fallen.
It’s wonderfully inspirational, a show of sportsmanlike camaraderie over competition. And it’s an example that played out once again in the state of New York.
It was Oct. 13, and the annual Auburn Invitational event was on. The Invitational is a cross-country running event featuring athletes from numerous area schools.
In other words, the competition is a big deal, and Fairport High School senior Luke Fortner wanted to do well.
But according to The Post-Standard, Fortner wasn’t like other runners. For one thing, he was blind.
That didn’t stop him, though, from getting to within 200 meters of the finish line. With his goal in sight, though, disaster struck.
Fortner started up a hilly section of the course, a slope that had become muddy, and slipped. He went down hard, sprawling on the grass and dirt.
Fortner’s guide was with him, yet as the man reached to help him up, another runner stepped in — a competing runner from a different school. Cazenovia High School sophomore Jake Tobin had watched the blind runner go down.
He’d also watched Fortner pass him by just moments before. It would’ve been the perfect time for him to press his advantage.
Instead, Tobin reached down and helped haul him up. Then he, Fortner and the aide crossed the finish line together.
Cazenovia High School varsity cross-country coach Jason Hyatt saw the whole thing. “Jake got down and lifted him up with his guide, and then helped push him up the hill,” he said.
“It was touching to see, and it will be a memory I’ll carry with me for a long time. A great example of true sportsmanship.”
Cazenovia Central School District also praised Tobin on its Facebook page. “Your XC team member (i.e., Tobin) did not only cheer and clap for him as the student tried to run up the hill in front of him, but stopped and helped him to his feet when he slipped,” it read.
Even Fortner’s coach took a minute to fire off an email showing his appreciation for Tobin’s kindness, writing, “It was an awesome display of sportsmanship and kindness. Jake deserves to be commended!!!!”
Indeed, he does. Tobin shows us how athletes need to know not only how to put one foot in front of another, but also to care for their fellow man.
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