No prize for sportsmanship in Northfield

It undoubtedly wouldn’t matter to those involved — a sense of decency is a powerful thing — but the decision to disqualify two runners who helped an injured competitor at a state cross country meet in Northfield still undermines the whole “sports is meant to teach children” notion that’s the underpinning of its existence.

According to the Associated Press:

Kailee Kiminski, a senior from Esko, and Tierney Winter, a junior in Janesville, forfeited the race last weekend to help Jackson County Central freshman Jessica Christoffer cross the finish line. All three were disqualified because of a high school league rule against aiding another runner.

Christoffer says she is “really thankful” for her peers. She says she got tired and fell, and it was nice of them to help her finish the race.

Winter says she couldn’t leave Christoffer 50 meters from the finish line. She says she wouldn’t want to be left there if she had fallen and she was just being “a friend of a runner.”

“The girl that fell, looked tired and I just didn’t even think about it twice. I just went up to her. I just wanted to help her. I didn’t want them to finish alone and it’s much more then just a cross country race. It’s much more then that. It’s important to help others,” Kiminski tells WDIO (see video)

No thanks to an official standing nearby.

“The guy was like, ‘Leave her alone.’ I just picked her up anyway, and we went off to the finish,” Winter tells the Waseca County News.

Christoffer’s family sent Winter flowers on Monday.

  • Paul Comeau

    yeah… sounds like some officials need to learn letter vs. spirit of the law/rule. sigh…

    • I can see why the rule exists. But it wouldn’t kill the MSHSL to have a category to honor women like this rather than just brand them as “disqualified.” As if they never existed, nor ran with honor.

      I noticed, by the way, on the MSHSL page, there was no account of the women’s actions. Only a focus on the “winners.”

      http://www.mshsl.org/mshsl/index.asp

      • Jack Ungerleider

        There is a simple solution to this. The fallen runner and those that helped her finish the race, assuming they all crossed the finish line, are placed at the end of the list of runners. Their times can be marked with a symbol or an abbreviation that indicates Finished With Aid or Aided Other Runner. Then when the overall results of the race are looked at everyone who crossed the finish line is listed and those that gave up their race to help someone else are recognized.

    • John

      The problem is, officials are expected to enforce the letter of the law. It’s part of the whole integrity and sportsmanship thing that they’re trying to teach kids. If the official hadn’t disqualified the girls, I believe every coach with students who finished behind them could lodge a complaint about the meet being run unfairly.

      The bigger problem is that the letter of the law is very much reactionary, and was most likely set up without this kind of scenario considered (has it ever happened before?)

      If the MSHL is looking at things correctly (i.e. the way I think they should), they’ll figure out a way to address this. I hope they do.

      • davehoug

        YES, that is my objection to the whole zero-tolerance of anything. The guy who wrote the rule was NOT there at that time and place.

        • John

          You’re correct, but because of the scale of it, it’s really impossible to address everything proactively. Every track meet or swim meet or wrestling match or NFL football game has to be played under the same set of rules, so the guy who wrote the rule can’t be at every one (nevermind that most of these rules are made by a group of people – who, at least at a high school or not-NFL/MLB/NHL/NBA level, are really doing their best to make it fair, usually as volunteers who care a lot about the sport in question).