Hot on the heels of this great story:
Comes another great story of sportsmanship from Ohio. Keep it up Ohio!
WEST LIBERTY — Meghan Vogel had 30 new Facebook friends by the time she got back on the West Liberty-Salem High School bus Saturday afternoon. Her Facebook wall and Twitter feed overflowed with messages from friends and strangers alike.
“Thank you for showing what a true sport and great person is all about,” one person wrote. “You’ve inspired us all.”
By Monday, with the help of a memorable photo by Mike Ullery of the Piqua Daily Call and FinishTiming.com’s video of the incident, Vogel’s story had gone national.
Twenty years ago, it would have been a nice little story that may not have made it out of Champaign County. Today, Vogel’s story has gone viral.
“It’s overwhelming and humbling at the same time,” Vogel said. “People are telling me I’m a role model for their children. I’m very honored.”
At the state track and field meet Saturday in Columbus, Vogel helped carry a fellow competitor, Arlington sophomore Arden McMath, to the finish line in the 3,200-meter run. Vogel, a junior, had won the 1,600 earlier in the day, surpassing her personal best by 10 seconds, and was in last place in the 3,200 as she entered the final turn at Jessie Owens Memorial Stadium.
“The mile is my focus. The 2-mile is a backup if I don’t do well in the mile,” Vogel said. “The first two laps, I felt good. The third lap came around, and my legs felt heavy. It was hard to catch my breath. I thought, ‘This isn’t going to be pretty.’ ”
Vogel made eye contact with her mom Ann, who’s also the track and cross country coach at West Liberty. They both laughed at the irony that Vogel would finish first and last at state.
“This is embarrassing,” Ann joked.
With 100 meters to go, Vogel saw McMath ahead of her, and the first-time state qualifier was struggling.
“I was kind of blacking out,” McMath said. “I wasn’t too aware of my surroundings. I was just trying to keep going. When my body gave out, she was there. It was amazing.”
When McMath hit the ground, Vogel decided against running past her and avoiding a last-place finish. She stopped, picked McMath up, put McMath’s arm around her shoulders and half-carried, half-dragged her the last 20 meters.
The stadium erupted at the display of sportsmanship.
“I just told her, ‘Thank you,’ ” McMath said. “I just couldn’t believe she’d done that for me. We’re all in it together as distance runners. Everyone is trying to do their best. It’s a lot harder on your body than a lot of the other races. We just try to help each other.”
Arlington coach Paul Hunter credited Vogel for the spur-of-the-moment decision.
“She didn’t have a lot of time to think through it,” he said. “It’s apparently ingrained. It just showed what kind of character the young lady has.”
Ann Vogel, who won a state championship on a West Liberty relay team in 1984 and took Meghan to her first race when she was 2 weeks old, wasn’t surprised by her daughter’s actions. Then again, in decades around the sport, she had never seen anything like it , especially at such a big meet.
Technically, both runners should have been disqualified, Ann said, but the head referee told Damon Christen, of Finish Timing, to make a no-call. Neither runner scored points, so the result didn’t affect the team standings. Vogel pushed McMath across the finish line, so McMath finished 14th in 12 minutes, 29.90 seconds and Vogel took last in 12:30.24.
Not long after the race, Vogel started feeling light-headed and was taken to the training room. She found herself in a bed next to Arden. The two were feeling too bad at that time to put the day in perspective.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Vogel said. “Distance runners take care of their own. I knew if I was on that track, anybody would do the same for me.”
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